Pussy Riot, Greenpeace activists could be granted amnesty in Russia

Two members of punk protest band Pussy Riot could be freed from prison and 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest could avoid jail under an amnesty proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, lawyers said on Tuesday.

Draft document suggests people charged with hooliganism could be freed

Two members of punk protest band Pussy Riot could be freed from prison and 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest could avoid jail under an amnesty proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, lawyers said on Tuesday.

Putin plans the amnesty this month to mark the anniversary of the adoption of Russia's post-Communist constitution in 1993.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of the punk band Pussy Riot is seen in a district court 440 km southeast of Moscow earlier this year. Tolokonnikova is being held in a prison in Siberia but could be freed along with her bandmate Maria Alyokhina under an amnesty proposed by President Vladimir Putin. (Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press)

According to a draft text on the lower house of parliament's website, people convicted of hooliganism will be released under the amnesty. This is the charge on which Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are serving two-year jail terms for a protest against Putin in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012.

"I very much hope so," Irina Khrunova, a lawyer for Tolokonnikova, said when asked whether she believed her client — due to be released in March — would be free by Jan. 1. "If the prison authorities drag this out, we will take measures."

Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, also appear to be eligible for release as mothers of young children. Khrunova said both women would qualify if parliament, which is dominated by a party loyal to Putin, approves the draft amnesty.

Amnesty won't apply to Khodorkovsky

Thirty people arrested after a Greenpeace protest at an offshore oil platform in the Arctic in September are also charged with hooliganism, punishable by up to seven years in prison. All 30 have been released on bail but still face trial.

Mikhail Fedotov, head of a Kremlin advisory council on human rights, said he thought those arrested in the Greenpeace protest would be eligible for amnesty. A lower house official who declined to be named also said he believed they would qualify.

Russia's record on human rights is in the spotlight as the country prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has indicated that former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky will not be freed under the amnesty. Khodorkovsky was arrested in 2003 and later convicted of financial crimes. 

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