The harassment of civil society in Russia will continue unabated despite the release of prisoners of conscience, said Amnesty International today.
The organization has long campaigned for the immediate and unconditional release of a number of prisoners of conscience (POCs) freed recently under President Putin’s amnesty. Several others being tried in connection with the 2012 Bolotnaya Square protest remain behind bars.
“The release of businessman Mikhail Khodorkovski, the Pussy riot singers Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and a handful of Bolotnaya case detainees should not been seen as a benign act of clemency, but a politically expedient move in the run up to the Sochi Olympics,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“The move is further proof of the politicisation of justice in Russia. It should not obscure the bigger truth that the last year has seen a significant contraction in the space allowed to critical and independent voices.
“Those that have been released were imprisoned solely for expressing their views. While they are now free, the charges against them remain. The amnesty is no substitute for an effective justice system.”