19 Dec 2013

Amnesty in Russia on hooliganism charges

8:32 am on 19 December 2013

Parliament in Russia has approved an amnesty under which hooliganism charges are likely to be dropped against the Pussy Riot prisoners and 30 members of Greenpeace arrested after an incident on an oil rig in the Arctic.

The State Duma in Moscow unanimously approved the law at its third reading on Wednesday and it is expected to come into force within days.

The BBC reports it covers at least 20,000 prisoners, including minors, invalids, veterans, pregnant women, and mothers.

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were jailed in 2012 for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after performing an anti-Kremlin protest song in a cathedral in Moscow.

The BBC reports they are due to be released in three months in any case.

Charges against the 30 people arrested on the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise in September may be dropped.

Twenty six were foreigners from 17 countries. They were all released on bail in November, but none of the foreigners were permitted to leave Russia.

The clemency measure was proposed by President Vladimir Putin to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia's constitution.

Greenpeace predicts that the bill will almost certainly end any legal proceedings against its personnel.

Two New Zealanders were among the group. One of them, David Haussmann, says he's hugely relieved the amnesty bill was passed. But he told Morning Report he will hold off celebrating until he makes it back to New Zealand.