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Arctic 30 protesters and Pussy Riot members set to walk free #Goodnews

Russia passes amnesty law with amendment extending scope to include those arrested on Greenpeace ship
Pussy Riot in trial

Maria Alyokhina (left) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who could be released as early as Thursday if the amnesty law is passed. Photograph: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA

The Greenpeace “Arctic 30″ could be home by Christmas, and the two jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot should be released from jail in the coming days, after a wide-ranging amnesty law was passed by the Russian parliamenton Wednesday .

The Pussy Riot pair are serving a two-year sentence for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, while the Greenpeace activists are charged with hooliganism and are currently on awaiting trial in St Petersburg.

The amnesty, backed by Russia‘s president, Vladimir Putin, is timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Russia’s constitution. It mainly concerns first-time offenders, minors and women with small children.

An amendment on Wednesday extended the amnesty to suspects in cases of hooliganism, which includes the Arctic 30, who were arrested aboard the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in September.

They were bailed by courts in St Petersburg last month but still faced trial and potential jail sentences of up to seven years.

Iain Rogers, Greenpeace activist, in a cage in courtIain Rogers, one of the Greenpeace activists, in a cage at a bail hearing in Murmansk in October. Photograph: Igor Podgorny/Greenpeace/SWNS.comThe Greenpeace activists expressed relief, though Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Willcox said: “There is no amnesty for the Arctic.”

He added: “I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place.”

Kieron Bryan, a freelance journalist and one of six Britons among the 30 Greenpeace detainees, said that with all the uncertainty about whether or not they would be included in the amnesty, the past week had been hard to cope with: “We’ve all been feeling the emotional strain this week,” he said from St Petersburg.

“We’d heard rumours about the possibility of this at every stage of the process, but there have been so many rumours and false hopes that I never really believed it. For every positive thing that’s happened there has been a setback, and a feeling that we might be here for a very long time and go to jail.”

Greenpeace communications officer Alexandra Harris said: “We are relieved we are coming home but we don’t know when. It is quite a strange feeling.

“Our amnesty will be signed off tomorrow and then the investigators [in the case] will have to approve it and then we have to wait for visas. It could take weeks or we could be home for the weekend. That would be amazing if we could be home for Christmas.”

Harris, who works for Greenpeace in Australia, said she was looking forward to spending time with her family in Devon and a long walk on Dartmoor.

 Mikhail KhodorkovskyMikhail Khodorkovsky reads documents behind a glass wall during a court session in Moscow in June 2010. Photograph: Sergei Karpukhin/ReutersShe added: “It’s strange that we are being forgiven for a crime we didn’t commit, and I keep thinking about my Russian friends. I always imagined we’d all be together in this moment and let go under the same circumstances. We’ve been a group this whole time and I thought we would be sharing this moment – but the amnesty doesn’t mean the same for all of us.”

The Duma, Russia’s parliament, voted 446-0 in favour of the bill in its third and final reading on Wednesday . Once it is printed in the state newspaper, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, probably on Thursday , it will then become law.

 

Read more here-  http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/dec/18/jailed-pussy-riot-russian-amnesty

 

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