Pussy Riot, Arctic 30 may be freed this week due to amnesty

Hope for jailed activists as Duma approves bill extending amnesty to those convicted of 'hooliganism'

LAST UPDATED AT 15:44 ON Wed 18 Dec 2013

TWO jailed members of Pussy Riot and 30 Greenpeace activists could be freed this week after Russia's parliament voted to extend an amnesty to those accused of "hooliganism".

Russia's State Duma voted 446-0 in favour of the amnesty bill, which "mainly concerns first-time offenders, juveniles and women with small children," The Independent says.

Legal experts believe the bill will permit the release of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, the two Pussy Riot members jailed for two years for staging an impromptu "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral last year.

It should also pave the way for the release of the so-called Arctic 30, the group of Greenpeace activists arrested and jailed in September after they tried to board an offshore oil platform. The foreign members of the group - six of whom are British - have been bailed, but told they cannot leave Russia.

Irina Khrunova, the lawyer who represents the jailed members of Pussy riot, told Bloomberg she was confident her clients would be released.

"According to the draft law passed today, my clients will be freed," she said. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who are due to complete their two-year sentences in March, "qualify for release because they have young children and were convicted of a minor crime," Bloomberg says.

The amnesty, which is backed by President Putin and marks the 20th anniversary of the drafting of Russia's constitution, will apply to between 20,000 and 22,000 people, human rights lawyers told Bloomberg. It has been seen as part of efforts to enhance Russia's international image as it prepares to stage the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Petya Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, told The Guardian he expected his wife to be released as soon as Thursday. But he said both she and Alyokhina were "slightly sceptical" that they could be free by Christmas.

He added: "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." · 

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Does anyone need more evidence that Putin, for all (or not withstanding?) all his macho posturing, is still in the closet?

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