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The Need for Presidential Pardons

From a Mark H. Teeter column in the Moscow Times:

Two prominent cases before President Dmitry Medvedev derive from the Yukos affair, a purported fraud and tax evasion proceeding that most observers consider either selective prosecution or a legal vendetta. Former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky has stoically sat out his sentence sewing mittens in Siberia, gradually growing in status as a symbol of justice miscarried and mercy denied — and now as the worst possible signal to foreign investors when Russia needs them most.

Former Yukos attorney Svetlana Bakhmina is even riper for pardon, it would seem, as her involvement with the company’s finances was relatively limited and her life has become the stuff of Dickens. She is the mother of two young children and pregnant with a third, due to be born in prison next month. Over 80,000 Russians, including Mikhail Gorbachev, have signed a petition for Bakhmina’s release. And there she sits.If these cases suggest that the pardon function has been hopelessly skewed in the era of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Medvedev, recall two things. First, how the era arrived. To relieve the nation of Boris Yeltsin, a historic leader with flaws to match, a preemptive pardon was required. Putin’s first official act as president was to forgive Yeltsin of any and all illegal activities as Russia’s chief executive. Put otherwise, defining pardons on some continuum of justice and mercy was essentially a fantasy from day one.