x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Russia approves amnesty covering punk band members, Greenpeace

Russian parliamentarians approve a Kremlin-backed amnesty bill that is set to free the two jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot, while also ending the prosecution of 30 Greenpeace crew members.

MOSCOW // Russian parliamentarians yesterday approved a Kremlin-backed amnesty bill that is set to free the two jailed members of the punk band Pussy Riot while also ending the prosecution of 30 Greenpeace crew members.

Russia’s Duma, or lower house of parliament, voted 446 in favour to none against for the amnesty, which commemorates 20 years since Russia ratified its current constitution.

The bill, branded as just a token gesture by rights activists, can go into effect as early as today and should also release several protesters who were jailed following rallies against Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, in May last year.

The amnesty affects a range of categories but it also specifically mentions the charge of hooliganism as well as the charge of participating in mass riots.

The jailed members of Pussy Riot punk band, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who are serving two-year sentences on charges of hooliganism for staging an anti-Putin “punk prayer” protest in a cathedral, could be released as early as today, Tolokonnikova’s husband said.

The officials in Krasnoyarsk and Nizhny Novgorod, where the two women are currently held, have promised to free them “right away and without bureaucratic delay, probably tomorrow”, Pyotr Verzilov wrote on Twitter.

The duo’s sentences run out in early March of next year.

The initial bill listed hooliganism and mass riot charges, but said that only convicts can seek amnesty. The parliament then passed amendments that stipulated cases on those charges to be closed even before reaching trial or verdict.

The amendments effectively meant that prosecution of the entire Greenpeace crew arrested after a protest in the Barents Sea and charged with hooliganism would end and the foreigners now staying in Saint Petersburg could finally go home.

The amnesty does not require approval by the upper chamber of parliament.

Agence France-Presse