Russian PM hints no amnesty for political prisoners

Posted Dec 6, 2013 by Cameron Christner
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev dampened amnesty chances for Pussy Riot members, Khodorkovsky, and others widely viewed as political prisoners.
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin
Sergei Guneyev
Being the biggest Russian amnesty in 20 years, rights organizations had high hopes that big names such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky and two members of the punk band Pussy Riot would be freed. However, these hopes were dashed after Medvedev's television interview Friday, when he hinted that the upcoming amnesty would not include "those who committed violent crimes, those who committed crimes against society, including hooliganism," or "people who committed state crimes, major embezzlement."
Thousands are still expected to be released, but if Medvedev is to be believed, the amnesty will not include those involved with the violent Bolotnaya Square protest. Twelve were arrested that day, and have been in jail for over a year now. They face up to eight more years in prison on charges such as rioting, hooliganism, and assaulting a police officer. One man was even charged with throwing a lemon at a policeman.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly the richest man in Russia and one of the richest men in the world, may also be denied amnesty. Khodorkovsky has spent the last ten years in prison on charges of tax evasion and embezzlement. However, rights advocates say his imprisonment was designed to prevent him from challenging Putin politically, to bring his oil assets under state control, and to send a clear message to other members of the Russian oligarchy in an attempt to keep them in line.
Despite these accusations, and amid major claims that the prisoners were jailed due to their outspoken political views, Medvedev insisted that "they are not serving time for their political views…They are in prison or in jail because they violated public order." He further stated that "the president and parliament must listen to public opinion," and hints several times that the apparent decision to deny amnesty was precipitated by the Russian people as a whole. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen.