Aleksei Pichugin's appeal for pardon did not reach the President

posted 16 Jun 2016, 06:57 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 Jun 2016, 07:00 ]
10 June 2016


By Vera Vasilieva
On 9 June 2016 it was announced that Aleksei Pichugin's appeal for pardon has been refused. Pichugin is a former employee of Yukos' security team who has been declared a political prisoner by Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow). The refusal letter was signed by Yury Berg, governor of Orenburg region.

Aleksei Pichugin told his lawyer, Kseniya Kostromina, that his request for pardon had been rejected during their meeting on 7 June. As Kseniya Kostromina told Kommersant newspaper, "Aleksei has no illusions about his possible release and reacted to this refusal in his usual stoical way".

Pichugin had written to ask Vladimir Putin to pardon him in the second half of November 2015, following his conversation in September 2015 with Mikhail Fedotov, chairman of the Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC), and Andrei Babushkin, a member of the HRC, during their visit to the 'Black Dolphin' penal colony. At the time, the website reported on this visit, during which Pichugin sought clarification from the human rights defenders as to whether submitting a request for clemency would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.

Babushkin said "I advised Aleksei Pichugin to write an appeal for pardon, making it clear that this did not mean that he was admitting guilt. We are prepared to support his request".

According to Babushkin, he told Aleksei Piguchin at the end of their meeting that he shook his hand symbolically.

Some time after the activists' response that an appeal would not amount to admitting guilt, Pichugin, with the help of his lawyers, submitted an appeal to Putin. He did not declare himself guilty of any of the charges against him.

While a Pardon Commission functioned effectively under Boris Yeltsin, it has now been replaced by a complex hierarchical bureaucratic structure. An appeal is transferred by the prison colony's administration to the local branch of the Federal Prison Authority (FSIN), then to the regional governor, and so on. Only after this lengthy process does an appeal arrive on the Russian President's desk, or, as in Pichugin's case, fail to get that far. So while Pichugin addressed his request to Putin, it was Yury Berg who wrote back.

Pichugin will only have the right to make a fresh appeal in three years' time, despite the fact that on 23 March 2015 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg communicated an application by Pichugin concerning his second prosecution.

Regarding information they had received from Pichugin's lawyers, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe decided at their session which ended on 9 June to ask the Russian authorities to provide additional information. There is little doubt that the Committee of Ministers will have to return to Pichugin's case in future and reach appropriate conclusions, which will not be favourable to Russia.

On 19 June Aleksei Pichugin will have been imprisoned, unjustly, for 13 years.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts