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22 Jul, 2013 08:55

Center-left seeks to broaden amnesty bill to cover Navalny case

Center-left seeks to broaden amnesty bill to cover Navalny case

Several Russian MPs have suggested to alter the new bill on economic amnesty so it would cover all types of frauds and embezzlement, including those the anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny was convicted over.

Members of the Fair Russia caucus in the Lower House, Valeriy Gartung and Aleksey Chepa, told the Vedomosti daily that their party prepared some amendments to the bill on amnesty for those convicted of and suspected of economic crimes that came into force on July 4. The MPs especially noted that if the amendments are passed the amnesty will cover Aleksey Navalny, the anti-corruption activist whose recent sentencing to 5 years in prison led to a mass rally in Moscow and protests from rights activists and foreign governments.

Fair Russia parliamentarians also said that their party's position was that a lot of people sentenced for fraud and embezzlement were innocent businessmen who had been set up by competitors and criminals who sought to get hold of their assets.

The initial draft of the economic amnesty bill included the fraud and embezzlement but the State Duma decided to narrow down the bill fearing that real career criminals would use the amnesty to their benefit.

The business amnesty will work for six months once it comes into force and it is expected it would cover from 6,000 to 8,000 prisoners. According to the business ombudsman Boris Titov, about 16,000 people are currently serving sentences for economic crimes but the amnesty is only valid for first time offenders who agree to compensate the damages inflicted by their crime.

Aleksey Navalny got a 5-year sentence for his part in the graft scheme that took place in the Kirovles state-owned timber company in 2009 – investigators claim that the manager of the company was selling timber at artificially low prices to a middleman suggested by Navalny who worked as a voluntary aide to the regional governor.

Navalny remains out of prison and under a travel ban until his sentence comes into force, and this will happen after and if the court turns down the first appeal by the defense. The hearings into the appeal have not been scheduled.

On Monday the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights reported that it would organize a public examination  into Navalny’s sentence in order to evaluate its legality. The expertize as its called will be held after the sentence comes into force, reads the report published on the council’s web-site.

Also on Monday the Russian President’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov denied reports in the Russian media that Navalny’s release from custody pending the appeal could had been ordered by Vladimir Putin. “To say that the president gave an order, and Navalny was released, is silly, to say the least. This means those who say this do not know the system of our courts. The decision to put him in custody was protested according to the legal procedure, and getting the president into this story is illogical and wrong,” Peskov told reporters.