Russia’s Most Prominent Political Prisoner Freed After Ten Years Behind Bars

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion. He spent 10 years in prison until his unexpected pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

Mikhail Khodorkovsky was charged with embezzlement and tax evasion. He spent 10 years in prison until his unexpected pardon by Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo Credit by Sean Gallup/Getty Images).

By Ludmila Gordon, Amnesty USA Russia Country Specialist, Eurasia Cogroup Co-Chair

Amnesty International is happy to share the great news of the release of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Russia’s most prominent political prisoner who spent over 10 years behind bars.

On December 19, 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly announced at the annual news conference that he decided to pardon Mikhail Khodorkovsky after he received a petition from Khodorkovsky asking to be pardoned due to family reasons. Shortly after, Khodorkovsky was released from a prison colony in the Karelia region of northwestern Russia and immediately flown to Germany.

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VICTORY!: Russian Prisoner of Conscience Freed As Write For Rights 2013 Reaches 1.4 Million Actions!

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By Louisa Anderson, Amnesty International Global Campaigner

Fantastic news came today as our global letter-writing campaign, Write for Rights, drew to a close: Vladimir Akimenkov, one of the Bolotnaya 3 prisoners of conscience, has been freed!

This fantastic outcome will be celebrated throughout the 83 countries that have taken part in our campaign. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of Amnesty supporters have taken action for Vladimir and others at risk of human rights abuses.

So far we have counted an incredible 1.4 million messages voicing support for human rights!

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Massive Syrian Refugee Crisis Visible From Space

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, March 2013. Click to explore. Image © DigitalGlobe 2013 © Google Earth

Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, March 2013. Click to explore. Image © DigitalGlobe 2013 © Google Earth

The massive displacement crisis stemming from Syria’s ongoing conflict is increasingly visible from space. Satellite images on Google Earth reveal the growth of what in some cases looks like the emergence of whole new cities over the last two years.

A new project published today by one of our volunteers, Richard Cozzens, presents some of the most compelling images, providing a grim snapshot of the dire humanitarian situation in and around Syria. The satellite images show camps in the countries that are most affected by the influx of refugees, such as Turkey and Jordan. For example, what was an empty spot in the desert in September 2011 is now the huge refugee camp Zaatari in Jordan.

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Sentenced to a Psychiatric Hospital For a Peaceful Protest

Mikhail Kosenko stands in a defendant cage in a court in Moscow (Photo Credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images).

Mikhail Kosenko stands in a defendant cage in a court in Moscow (Photo Credit: Vasily Maximov/AFP/Getty Images).

This blog originally appeared in the Huffington Post

Mikhail Kosenko was there last year when tens of thousands gathered in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in protest of Vladimir Putin’s re-election. Video evidence indicates that he was protesting peacefully, yet he was arrested days later by the Russian authorities and charged with taking part in a riot and using violence against police officers.

Although many are being prosecuted for their involvement that day, Kosenko has been sent by the courts to a psychiatric hospital, where treatment is being forced upon him. The prosecution asserts that he is a threat to himself and others, yet there is no evidence of this.

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“I Did Not Feel Alone, I Knew People Believed in Me”

Azerbaijani youth activist Jabbar Savalan was released from prison in December 2011 (Photo Credit: IRFS).

Azerbaijani youth activist Jabbar Savalan was released from prison in December 2011 (Photo Credit: IRFS).

Azerbaijani youth activist Jabbar Savalan could hardly believe his eyes the first time guards at the prison brought him a bag full of letters.

They mostly came from people he had never met before, from countries he had never visited. They were all telling him to keep strong and that they were putting pressure on authorities in Azerbaijan to release him.

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Warning: Helping Your Own People? You Will Be Considered a “Foreign Agent”

By Valentina Cherevatenko, head of a Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) which is being sued under the so-called “foreign agents law.” The law, enacted by the Russian authorities late last year, requires any NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in what it defines very loosely as “political activity” to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent.”

Earlier this year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of our NGO – the Women of the Don Alliance – in southern Russia’s Rostov region.

For 20 years, we have focused on the promotion of human rights and peace through non-violent means. It came as a shock to us when in March this year, our offices were raided by a host of authorities – the prosecution office, the tax office, the police, the security services, the fire brigade and the financial auditors. Ostensibly, they wanted to check on our activities in connection with the “foreign agents law.”

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HAPPENING NOW: Pussy Riot Member Rumored to Have Been Transferred to Siberian Prison

Nadya had publically complained of threats she received from prison officials (Photo Credit: Maksim Blinov/AFP/Getty Images).

Nadya had publically complained of threats she received from prison officials (Photo Credit: Maksim Blinov/AFP/Getty Images).

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova is rumored to have been transferred to a prison colony in Siberia. But we can’t know for sure because Russian authorities refuse to disclose her whereabouts.

If these reports are true, transferring her to a prison colony thousands of miles from Moscow would make it impossible for her family and lawyers to see her. This would be a grave violation of her human rights and Russia’s own laws.

It’s especially concerning because Nadya had publicly complained of threats she received from prison officials. We fear she may now be being punished for this and for speaking out against deplorable prison conditions.

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