Read

Search form

Russia's About-Face Amnesty Law Frees Pussy Riot and Arctic 30 Protesters

Russia's About-Face Amnesty Law Frees Pussy Riot and Arctic 30 Protesters
Thu, 12/19/2013 - by Shaun Walker
This article originally appeared on The Guardian

The Greenpeace Arctic 30 could be home for Christmas, and the two jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot will be released as early as Thursday, after a wide-ranging amnesty law was passed by the Russian parliament on Wednesday.

The Pussy Riot pair are serving a two-year jail sentence, while the Greenpeace activists are charged with hooliganism and are on bail in St. Petersburg.

The amnesty, backed by the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution, and is being seen as a move to boost the country's image ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which are due to start in less than two months.

An amendment to the amnesty law passed on Wednesday extended the pardon to suspects in cases of hooliganism, which includes the 30 people arrested on board the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise in September. The activists expressed relief, though ship's captain, Peter Willcox, said: "There is no amnesty for the Arctic."

He added: "I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place."

Greenpeace says it is unclear when the non-Russians among the Arctic 30 will be able to leave the country. "At present they do not have the correct stamps in their passports, having been brought to Russia by commandos after being illegally seized in international waters. By accepting the amnesty they will not be admitting guilt, but the legal proceedings against them will come to an end," the organisation said.

The Duma, Russia's parliament, voted 446 to 0 in favor of the bill in its third and final reading on Wednesday. The amnesty mainly concerns first-time offenders, minors and women with small children. Once it is signed by Putin and printed in the state newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, it will then become law.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, of Pussy Riot, were jailed for two years for staging an impromptu punk performance in Moscow's main cathedral last year.

Petya Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, said he believed an order had been given to speed up the process. Although technically releases could take up to six months to be processed from the day the law is published, prison officials have indicated they are ready to release the Pussy Riot duo as soon as the law is passed, he said. Verzilov suggested that they could be released on Thursday.

Alyokhina is serving her time in a prison in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, while Tolokonnikova was recently moved from Mordovia, a region known for its Soviet-era gulags, to the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Tolokonnikova has said that the conditions are incomparably better than in Mordovia, from where she published a long open letter detailing slave-like conditions of forced labour and cruel punishments.

"They [Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina] are slightly sceptical of course," Verzilov told the Guardian. "When you're living in these conditions it's hard to think about the Duma passing some bill, and it seems like it could never happen, so it's a big surprise for them that it does actually seem to be happening."

The amnesty will not cover Russia's former richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has been found guilty of economic crimes at two separate trials, neither will the law include most of the people on trial for disturbances at a rally the day before Putin's inauguration last year.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were due to be released in early March, as their sentence included time served since their arrest. A third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed on appeal shortly after the trial concluded.

Verzilov said that on their release, his wife and Alyokhina plan to launch a major new project related to the Russian prison system, though he declined to give details for now.

Sue Turner, mother of Iain Rogers, one of six British nationals among the Arctic 30: "Until I have heard it officially, I can't quite believe it. I am waiting to know whether they have to wait for exit visas or if they are put on a plane straight away. I am so excited, I just can't take it in. It is a great Christmas present for me and the family and all Iain's friends."

Keiron Bryan, a freelance video producer and editor, who was on the ship when it was seized, tweeted: "It doesn't seem real. Merry Christmas everyone, this will be my best ever wherever I am!"

Greenpeace communications officer Alexandra Harris, tweeted: "TBH, I'm feeling strange. A lot of relief to be going home, though we don't know when. It's a bit emotional, what a journey! Weird to be writing my first tweet in 3 months. Thoughts are with my 4 Russian friends for whom the amnesty brings uncertainty.

"It's strange that we are being forgiven for a crime we didn't commit, and I keep thinking about my Russian friends. I always imagined we'd all be together in this moment and let go under the same circumstances. We've been a group this whole time and I thought we would be sharing this moment – but the amnesty doesn't mean the same for all of us."

Originally published by The Guardian

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

gun violence, gun lobby, mass killings, National Rifle Association

Powerful almost by default, and handled with a clear mission at hand and an eye for empathy, "91%" is a call to activist arms.

Oaxaca teacher strikes, Educational Reform, National Coordinator of Education Workers, National Union of Education Workers, Enrique Peña Nieto, student deaths, student disappearances, Nochixtlán blockade, Nochixtlán violence, Popular Assembly of the Peopl

Teachers in southern Mexico are back on the barricades, and once again the state has responded with brute force.

tax avoidance, corporate tax evasion, corporate taxes, job creation

While candidates bicker and Congress stagnates and the rest of us dwell on the latest shooting tragedy, the super-rich enjoy the absence of attention paid to one of our nation’s most destructive issues: tax avoidance.

Abby Martin, Monsanto, World Health Organization, carcinogens

Few corporations in the world are as loathed – and as sinister – as Monsanto, but the threat posed to people and planet could be reaching new heights.

Brexit, Jo Cox, E.U. referendum, Britain Stronger in Europe, Electoral Reform Society, Left Leave, rightwing movements, U.K. xenophobia

Many are calling the U.K.’s European Union referendum vote on Thursday, the most important vote in every British person’s lifetime.

Abby Martin, Monsanto, World Health Organization, carcinogens

Few corporations in the world are as loathed – and as sinister – as Monsanto, but the threat posed to people and planet could be reaching new heights.

Posted 2 days 3 hours ago
Jo Cox, white supremacy, racism, anti-immigrant, Brexit, Tommy Mair, political killings, E.U. referendum

The murder of Jo Cox has shocked British society, sparking renewed discussions about how to deal with racism, hatred, xenophobia and white supremacy just days before the Brexit vote.

Posted 4 days 3 hours ago
Brexit, Jo Cox, E.U. referendum, Britain Stronger in Europe, Electoral Reform Society, Left Leave, rightwing movements, U.K. xenophobia

Many are calling the U.K.’s European Union referendum vote on Thursday, the most important vote in every British person’s lifetime.

Posted 3 days 1 hour ago
Hawaii GMOs, anti-GMO movement, genetically engineered crops, Syngenta, Monsanto, Earthjustice

Most people know Hawaii for its beautiful beaches, world-class surfing and delicious Kona coffee, but the islands are also ground zero for GE crops – and last week various counties were in court to defend themselves against them.

Posted 4 days 3 hours ago
Bernie Sanders, political revolution, National Nurses Union, racial inequality, economic inequality, Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party, Democratic Socialists of America, Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative, People and Planet First Budget

Last weekend's People's Summit concentrated on domestic policy and economic inequality, featuring spirited debates, discussions and workshops that tried to chart the path ahead for America's new left.

Posted 4 days 3 hours ago
Oaxaca teacher strikes, Educational Reform, National Coordinator of Education Workers, National Union of Education Workers, Enrique Peña Nieto, student deaths, student disappearances, Nochixtlán blockade, Nochixtlán violence, Popular Assembly of the Peopl

Teachers in southern Mexico are back on the barricades, and once again the state has responded with brute force.

crude by rail, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, crude rail explosions, BNSF, rain transit, rail revolution

We used to own our farms. We used to ride the rails. We used to have localized economies.

prison-industrial complex, jail leasing, high incarceration rates, Prison Policy Initiative, prison privatization, criminal justice reform

A recent report on “jail leasing” exposes the extent of a practice that harms prisoners and raises ethical questions about public institutions profiting off incarceration.

Abby Martin, Monsanto, World Health Organization, carcinogens

Few corporations in the world are as loathed – and as sinister – as Monsanto, but the threat posed to people and planet could be reaching new heights.