Pussy Riot Members Could Be Released From Jail As Early As Tomorrow
Posted by Joseph Lee on 12.18.2013
Thanks to an amnesty...
According to The Hollywood Reporter, imprisoned Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina could be released as early as tomorrow under an amnesty marking the 20th anniversary of Russia's post-Soviet Constitution, which the Russian parliament passed today. This could be four months before the two were expected to be released in March from the Siberian labor camps.
The release follows a formal ruling by the Supreme Court in Russia that the two-year sentences set up in August last year by a Moscow court were illegal. President Vladimir Putin made the announcement, which some say is an attempt to calm down critics of Russia's human rights record before the Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year. Putin announced a bill that offered amnesties for those convicted of non-violent crimes. Russian lawmakers voted unanimously 446-0 in favor. It will go into effect as early as Thursday.
Last week, the court ruled that the fact the Pussy Riot members are mothers was not taken into account, nor was the fact that they were first-time offenders who did not commit a violent crime. The case of the Pussy Riot members was the focus of protests worldwide and appeals by Paul McCartney and Madonna, among others.
Prison officials in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia (where Tolokonnikova is being held) and Nizhny Novgorod (where Alykhina is being held) said that the two should be out tomorrow. Tolokinnokova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said on Twitter that the two had been promised freedom "right away and without bureaucratic delay, probably tomorrow."
The Greenpeace "Arctic 30" activists, arrested for piracy in the Barents Sea in September for protesting Arctic gas exploration, will also go free. The charges were initially set for crimes that had fifteen year sentences. The charges were reduced to hooliganism, which has a maximum sentence of sevne years. The 26 foreigners in the group could be home in time for Christmas.
The amnesty doesn't require the approval of the upper chamber of parliament and will likely be published today, when it will go into effect.
The Pussy Riot women were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for performing a 40-second anti-Putin "punk prayer" at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February 2012. Tolokonnikova is in a prison hospital near Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, over 1,000 miles east of Moscow. Her lawyers won't say why she is sick but have denied reports that she has tuberculosis. Alokhyina was sent to prison in the Urals before a transfer to Nizhny Novgorod.
Yekaterina Samutsevitch, another member of the group, was convicted but released last year on appeal. Both Tolonnikova and Alokhyina saw repeated appeals rejected.