Looking for clemency in all the wrong places

Russian political activists hold pictures of j...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Today, the Russian parliament approved changes to the criminal code that guarantee that extradited Russian criminals won’t be executed on their return to Russia and that women who are pregnant or have children under 14 will be free from punishment. Odd, right?

Well, turns out a Russian prison houses just such a woman, Svetlana Bakhmina, a Yukos lawyer who was imprisoned on trumped up charges even though she had a young son and was denied an appeal when though she was very, very hugely seven months pregnant. (Grandma can care for the boy, the government told Bakhmina’s lawyers.) And then there’s the cell phone exec, Yevgeny Chichvarkin, accused of kidnapping an employee who stole 20 million rubles worth of phones. Chichvarkin is now hiding in London and fighting Russian attempts to extradite him, and this correction of the criminal code could speed that process up.

But Russian legal experts point out that the new laws are fairly worthless and impossible to implement. “Shoulds” instead of “coulds” and a belief in Europe that the death penalty clause will be easily gotten around, etc. But, hoo boy, does it look good!

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