Gorbachev Seeks Yukos Lawyer's Release

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday called on President Dmitry Medvedev to pardon jailed Yukos lawyer Svetlana Bakhmina, who was denied early release last month despite having served half her sentence and being seven months pregnant.

In an interview published Thursday on the web site Izbrannoe.ru, Gorbachev said Bakhmina should be pardoned because she has already served most of her sentence and because she is pregnant and has two young children to care for.

"Why keep her behind bars?" Gorbachev told the web site. "I think Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev in this case can make use of his right to pardon. I would welcome that."

An online petition asking Medvedev to pardon Bakhmina on the web site Bakhmina.ru had gathered more than 33,000 signatures as of Thursday evening.

Seven members of the Public Chamber on Wednesday signed a letter addressed to Medvedev calling for Bakhmina's release.

"We ask you to carry out an act of mercy and pardon Svetlana Bakhmina," they said in the letter, which was published on the chamber's web site.

"She has already served half her sentence (four years), and that means she has the right to be paroled."

The letter was signed by television journalist Nikolai Svanidze, lawyer Genri Reznik and pediatrician Leonid Roshal, among others. The Public Chamber has 126 members.

Bakhmina's supporters held a protest Monday and gathered signatures for the petition to Medvedev near Chistiye Prudy metro station in central Moscow.

Bakhmina is serving a 6 1/2-year sentence in Mordovia for embezzlement and tax evasion.

She was refused parole in September on the grounds that she had not reformed and had violated prison rules four times early in her sentence.