By Ria Novosti
A group of Russian rights activists and cultural figures asked President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday to bring his term of office to a “glorious” conclusion by pardoning a host of “political prisoners,” including former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
“An act of mercy would be a glorious end to your presidential term, thanks to which you would remain in the memory of Russians and the international community as a magnanimous person,” read a letter signed by 21 activists and cultural figures, according to the For Human Rights website.
Khodorkovsky’s business partner, Platon Lebedev, is among those the signatories to the letter want to see pardoned. Both men were detained in 2003 on fraud charges and subsequently jailed for eight years. They had been due for release in 2011, but were found guilty on a second set of charges and their sentences extended until 2018. Khodorkovsky supporters say both sets of charges were Kremlin revenge for his financing of opposition parties. The Russian authorities deny the case was politically motivated.
Both Khodorkovsky and Lebedev have refused to appeal for a pardon, without which Medvedev has said he cannot consider the issue.
But a leading lawyer and a signatory to the letter told RIA Novosti the president might consider an appeal by “very many famous people” as sufficient.
“This could be viewed as an appeal,” said Valery Borshchyov, who is also a member of the Yabloko opposition party. “I hope the president takes the opportunity.”
The “political prisoners” mentioned in the letter refer to 39 people included on a list handed over to Medvedev by the head of the Kremlin’s council on human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, on February 8 and those in a similar list given to the president by opposition leader Boris Nemtsov on Tuesday.
Others on the lists include opposition activist Taisiya Osipova, the diabetic mother of a five-year-old girl, who was handed a ten-year sentence on drug charges late last year. Osipova’s sentence was annulled in mid-February after Medvedev intervened. She remains behind bars while a new investigation is carried out.
“We have sent our address to the president by fax,” For Human Rights activist Lev Ponomaryov said. “We are grateful to those cultural figures who supported our proposals.”
The letter was signed by two members of the Kremlin’s rights council, veteran activist Lyudmila Alekseeva and Svetlana Gannushkina, as well as popular writers Boris Strugatsky and Vladimir Voinovich.
President-elect President Putin said in February that there were “no political prisoners” in Russia, challenging the opposition to show him “at least one person who is in prison for political reasons.”
Medvedev ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office on March 5 to probe the legality of the verdicts handed down to 32 prisoners, including Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. It was announced on Wednesday that all the verdicts were in line with the law.