Published on 18 Dec 2013 Sections ,

Russia may free Greenpeace 30 and jailed Pussy Riot stars

Russia’s parliament passes an amnesty law that could free the jailed members of Pussy Riot and lead to the early release of 30 people arrested in a Greenpeace protest against Arctic oil drilling.

The lower house of parliament passed the amnesty, which President Vladimir Putin proposed to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the passage of Russia’s post-Soviet constitution.

Lawyers said the amnesty, which could enter into force this week, would lead to the early release of Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, whose two-year sentences over an anti-Putin protest in a cathedral have been criticised in the west as excessive.

Going home

Greenpeace said a last-minute amendment to the amnesty meant Russia would almost certainly end legal proceedings against 30 people who faced jail terms of up to seven years if convicted over a protest at an offshore oil platform in September. This would allow the 26 foreigners among them to go home.

I’m relieved, but I’m not celebrating. I spent two months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit. Ana Paula Maciel

In November, five of six Britons jailed after the protests were freed on bail after two months in detention. The protesters were initially charged with piracy, but this was reduced to hooliganism.

The amnesty follows an international campaign, in 46 countries and 150 cities, to free the 30, who were arrested and jailed in September before being freed on bail in November.

Greenpeace said it was not yet clear when the group will be allowed home, or what will happen to its vessel the Arctic Sunrise, which has remained impounded in Murmansk since the arrests.

Brazilian Ana Paula Maciel, one of the activists, said: “I’m relieved, but I’m not celebrating. I spent two months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit and faced criminal charges that were nothing less than absurd.

“But now at last it seems like this saga could soon be over and it may not be long before we’re back with our families.”

Arctic Sunrise captain Peter Wilcox, from the US, said: “I might soon be going home to my family, but I should never have been charged and jailed in the first place.

‘Profound environmental threat’

“We sailed north to bear witness to a profound environmental threat but our ship was stormed by masked men wielding knives and guns.

“Now it’s nearly over and we may soon be truly free, but there’s no amnesty for the Arctic.

“We may soon be home, but the Arctic remains a fragile global treasure under assault by oil companies and the rising temperatures they’re driving. We went there to protest against this madness. We were never the criminals here.”