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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Amnesty ignores prisoners jailed for economic crimes, critics say

As Russia prepares to implement a broad amnesty designed to free many minor offenders from the country's prisons, critics are charging that the measure ignores up to 120, 000 people jailed for economic crimes that are now either legal or widely practiced activities.


The Russian courts are expected to examine the cases of about 40, 000 people who may qualify for the amnesty, of whom about 20, 000 are expected to be released within the next six months, said Lev Ivanov, an adviser to the Supreme Soviet's legislative committee.


The amnesty is far smaller than earlier Russian reports of a general amnesty for 400, 000 people.


Ivanov said the earlier reports stemmed from the office of the Russian public prosecutor, Valentin Stepankov, and that the misinformation was responsible for slowing down the amnesty, which was officially published as a parliamentary resolution in Friday's Rossiskaya Gazeta.


Descriptions about who will benefit from the amnesty are vague. The resolution says only that the amnesty will cover women, men over 60 years of age, some invalids, elderly war veterans, some minors and some men who have already spent a certain amount of time in jail.


"It's not a very significant amnesty at all", said Alexander Yakovlev, criminology dean at the Institute of Law and Government.


"This line of thinking is not humanitarian. It is more in line with a police state mentality".


"If you go to the Arbat", he added, "people are openly dealing in hard currency. It has been decriminalized spontaneously. But what about the people still in prison? "


Yakovlev said that the cases of some 120, 000 prisoners should be reviewed individually because they are in jail for economic activities that are now legal or tolerated.


The cases call for individual review, he said, to ensure that people who have committed other crimes, like fraud, stay in jail.


The amnesty measure has already had a dramatic impact at the Ordinary Regime Camp No. 5, a women's prison outside Moscow in the town of Dzerzhinsky.


About 20 percent of the camp's 800 prisoners are expected to receive freedom under the amnesty, said a prison official, who did not want to be named. The Moscow Times visited this prison in March and interviewed several women in jail for economic crimes that are now legal. Most of these prisoners will be freed under the amnesty, the official said.


But one of the prisoners interviewed in March, Irina Gulyayeva, 42, may not be immediately released, although her case will be reviewed. Gulyayeva, a former Aeroflot stewardess, was convicted in 1985 and is now serving a nine-and-a-half year sentence for buying hard currency from other stewardesses and using the money to buy and sell cars and other goods.