Pussy Riot Set To Be Freed Under Amnesty Bill

It looks like the imprisoned members of activist punk group Pussy Riot will be freed soon. Russia's parliament passed a Putin-backed prisoner amnesty bill on Wednesday by a margin of 446 - 0. To make it official, Putin will need to sign the bill into law tomorrow.

Fora de Eixo/Wikimedia CommonsFora de Eixo/Wikimedia CommonsThe bill is expected to free around 2,000 prisoners, many of whom have not committed violent crimes or are first-time offenders, minors or mothers of young children. A last-minute amendment tacked onto the bill adds additional prisoners, including the Pussy Riot duo as well as the Arctic 30 Greenpeace activists, who have been charged with hooliganism but are still awaiting trial.

According to NPRthe amnesty, which has been timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Russia's constitution, "has been largely viewed as the Kremlin's attempt to soothe criticism of Russia's human rights records ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February."

Even if the law is passed, though, Russian authorities have up to six months to process the releases. Prison officials have indicated, however, they are ready to immediately release Pussy Riot's remaining members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. 

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were arrested alongside a third member of the band, Yekaterina Samutsevich, in March last year for a protest performance in the Orthodox church. Samutsevich was released on probation shortly thereafter. The remaining members continued to make international headlines during their imprisonment; particularly Tolokonnikova, who published an open letter detailing brutal "slavery-like conditions" in a Mordovia prison. 

Some activists, including Pussy Riot, have expressed their skeptcism about the announcement. Petya Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, told the Guardian, "They [Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina] are slightly sceptical of course. 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."

Additionally, some opposition lawmakers and human rights groups have said the bill doesn't go nearly far enough. It doesn't free most political prisoners or those charged with more serious crimes.

Valentin Gefter, director of the Institute of Human Rights said the bill is "very narrow and decorative in character." As it stands, the amnesty is expected to cover less than 2 percent of Russia’s prison population. 

In comparison with Barack Obama's clemency record though, Putin's amnesty bill is remarkably liberal.

Five years into his presidency, Obama has granted just 39 pardons - a record lower than that of both Bushes, Clinton, Reagan, Carter and Nixon (and virtually every other president.) As Reason's Jacob Sullum wrote earlier this year:

With the exception of Washington's first term, then, Obama so far has been stingier with pardons and commutations than any other president, especially when you take into account the growth of the federal penal system during the last century, the elimination of parole, the proliferation of mandatory minimums, and the concomitant increase in petitions. This is a remarkable development for a man who proclaims that "life is all about second chances" and who has repeatedly described our criminal justice system as excessively harsh.

As Fox News notes though, the problem seems to be, in part, a larger trend of presidential pardons gradually declining over the 20th century. They argue the Justice Department is a main culprit:

Margaret Love, a lawyer who served as the U.S. pardon attorney in the Bush and Clinton administrations, said... the Justice Department has become “unremittingly hostile” to the pardon process. 

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  • Sevo||

    ..."In comparison with Barack Obama's clemency record though, Putin's amnesty bill is remarkably liberal."...

    I don't see it as intentional, but Putin's been making Obo look like the clown he is for some time.

  • ||

    I have a feeling that that is on purpose and that Putin is enjoying the shit out of it.

  • Sevo||

    Could be. I am.

  • Doctor Whom||

    But ... but ... black Santa! Duck Dynasty! Whatever distraction we're using today! [/Obot]

  • Ken Shultz||

    When Putin decided that he wanted the Olympics in Sochi, I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

  • The Rt. Hon. Serious Man, Visc||

    In comparison with Barack Obama's clemency record though, Putin's amnesty bill is remarkably liberal.

    At least Putin will do the right thing for the wrong reason. Obama can't even be bothered to do that.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Yeah, sometimes it seems like the main purpose of elections is to legitimize the shit our politicians do to us.

    Putin's largely considered to have muscled his way into the Kremlin, so he's sensitive to charges that he's acting like an autocrat.

    But Barack Obama was legitimately elected, so he feels like he can safely ignore his critics. NSA tracking everybody's phone calls? Up yours--I won an election, bitches!

  • Almanian!||

    Elections have consequences, Ken.

    CONEQUENCES.

    Love, BO

  • ||

    Russia's parliament passed a Putin-backed prisoner amnesty bill on Wednesday by a Putin-backed prisoner amnesty bill on Wednesday by a margin of 446 - 0. To make it official, Putin will need to sign the bill into law tomorrow.

    The will override his veto in any event.

  • ||

  • OldMexican||

    Long-lasting erections. Don't get too excited.

  • ||

    Shoot, and I thought Ritalin would provide me with a big ten-inch record.

  • OldMexican||

    Some activists, including Pussy Riot


    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

    "Activists." Oh, you guys kill me!

  • prolefeed||

    the problem seems to be, in part, a larger trend of presidential pardons gradually declining over the 20th century. They argue the Justice Department is a main culprit:

    Margaret Love, a lawyer who served as the U.S. pardon attorney in the Bush and Clinton administrations, said... the Justice Department has become “unremittingly hostile” to the pardon process.

    Sooo ... the President is employed by the Justice Department and has to do their bidding?

    Sorriest excuse ever.

  • RishJoMo||

    Can we hit it up one time.

    www.PrivaWeb.tk

  • On The Road To Mandalay||

    Wrong move! They should ship those sleazy bitches off to Siberia for the duration, and never to be seen again. These stupid c***s go into a church and profane the altar with their antics, and then every moron on this f***ing earth thinks that's just wonderful. The Kremlin is doing this as a publicity move to show the great wad everywhere just how tolerant they are of assholes.

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