News / Europe

    Russian Rights Activists Say Putin Amnesty Far Too Narrow

    FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013. FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
    x
    FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
    FILE - A member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, is escorted before a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
    Reuters
    Human rights advisers to President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday criticized his proposal to free some prisoners on the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution, arguing it was far too limited to help ease social tensions.
     
    Putin's amnesty would include the crime of 'hooliganism' and could lead to the early release of two jailed members of female punk band Pussy Riot, convicted on that charge for performing an anti-Kremlin 'punk prayer' in a Moscow cathedral.
     
    But members of Putin's advisory council on human rights said the draft, which the Kremlin sent to parliament on Tuesday, would free a relatively small number of inmates.
     
    Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)
    x
    Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)
    Some protesters were calling for the release of jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, December 24, 2011. (VOA - Y. Weeks)
    Several people whom Kremlin critics consider political prisoners, including ex-oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, would remain behind bars. And there would be no clemency for most of those prosecuted for mass protests against Putin on the eve of his third presidential inauguration last year.
     
    The scale of the amnesty will be a measure of Putin's tolerance for dissent as Russia prepares to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi in less than two months' time - an event that has focused international attention on his human rights record.
     
    A total of 1,335 convicts, or just half of a percent of those jailed in Russia at present, would be allowed to walk free, said Andrei Babushkin, a member of the rights council.
     
    The proposal fails to “restore trust in the authorities among the part of the society that is most critical about them”, he said.
     
    On Wednesday rights activists filed a request with the Duma, parliament's lower chamber, for a wider amnesty, and backed it with 20,000 signatures collected from citizens.
     
    “Of course we are happy for every freed person but we would like the amnesty to affect all political prisoners, not just some,” said veteran activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, who has quit the council in protest over Putin's human rights policies but goes on cooperating with the panel.
     
    Rising discontent
     
    In late 2011 and in 2012, Putin faced the largest wave of street protests against his rule since he first rose to the presidency in 2000. He is still Russia's most popular politician but his ratings have slumped over the years and he faces growing discontent in society, mainly among the affluent urban elite.
     
    The Kremlin has portrayed the amnesty as a humanitarian act to help re-unite families, as it encompasses people like young offenders, mothers of young children, pregnant women and the elderly.
     
    But it would also benefit some military personnel, law enforcement officials and prison workers who abused their roles - a sensitive issue in a country where the opposition accuses Putin of using Russia's justice system to persecute opponents.
     
    Another member of the human rights council, Igor Pastukhov, said: “This draft deprives us of the opportunity to ease tensions in society.”
     
    But the draft is expected to easily win the necessary Duma approval without major changes, since the chamber is dominated by a party loyal to Putin.
     
    Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - among the most prominent prisoners who could be freed under the amnesty - could be out of jail by Jan. 1, a lawyer for Tolokonnikova said. They are otherwise due for release in March.
     
    Environmental group Greenpeace said on Wednesday that under the current wording, the amnesty would be unlikely to benefit 30 people charged over a September protest against Russian oil drilling in the Arctic.
     
    It would also have no effect on anyone convicted of financial crimes, meaning Khodorkovsky would remain in jail and opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was given a five-year suspended sentence in July after a theft trial he called politically motivated, would not benefit.
     
    Former Constitutional Court justice Tamara Morshchakova, who now also serves on Putin's rights council, said the proposal would affect some 20,000 people in total. That figure includes people with suspended sentences and some who are being prosecuted or are standing trial but have not been convicted.
     
    The Kremlin denies clamping down on opponents or using the courts against them. Putin has repeatedly said there are no political prisoners in Russia.

    You May Like

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.