The Kremlin’s human rights council proposed an amnesty for people convicted of non-violent crimes that may free former oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky and protesters against President Vladimir Putin’s 13-year rule.
“The council has proposed to grant a wide-ranging amnesty,” its chairman, Mikhail Fedotov, said by phone. “This is an act of mercy and humanism, and it will help to modernize Russia’s penitentiary system.”
Putin faces criticism from the U.S. and Europe for cracking down on the opposition and non-governmental organizations after his election to a third presidential term in 2012. Russia detained 30 people for “piracy” after Greenpeace activists tried to scale an Arctic oil rig last month and arrested more than two dozen after a rally before Putin’s inauguration last year. Two members of female punk group Pussy Riot remain in prison after performing a song critical of Putin inside Moscow’s main cathedral in February 2012.
“If we want to reduce criminality, we need to have the amnesty,” according to Fedotov, who said the reprieve will decrease recidivism. If adopted, the measure would release tens of thousands of people from prison, he said. Putin agreed to have the council draft the proposal on Sept. 4.
Two weeks later, Putin said he doesn’t rule out an amnesty for the May 6 protesters. In July, parliament pardoned those convicted for economic crimes, freeing 307 people by Oct. 1, according to the RBC news wire.
Only those convicted of non-violent crimes with no serious consequences would be be considered for the amnesty, according to the proposal published on the council’s website today.
Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, is set to be freed from prison in August 2014, almost 11 years after his arrest at gunpoint in 2003. He has said the charges were politically motivated, which the Kremlin has denied.
Fedotov says he hopes that the president will support the council in a wider amnesty. It would also apply to the Greenpeace activists who are awaiting trial on piracy charges, “if the charges aren’t be changed to gang rape of the platform,” Fedotov said. “If they change the charges to rape, then there won’t be an amnesty for them.”