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Treason Convict Was Pressured To Seek Pardon From Putin, Lawyer Says

  • RFE/RL

Oksana Sevastidi, a shopkeeper from the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, is released from prison after being pardoned by Russian President on March 12.

A Russian woman who was convicted of treason over a text message and pardoned by President Vladimir Putin was pressured by her jailer to ask for clemency, her lawyer said.

Attorney Ivan Pavlov said on Facebook on March 15 that Oksana Sevastidi was instructed to appeal to Putin for a pardon by the warden of Lefortovo detention center in Moscow, Aleksei Romashin, in mid-February.

Sevastidi, 46, was sentenced to seven years in prison in March 2016 for texting a friend about a Russian train carrying military equipment toward Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region during a five-day war between Russia and Georgia in 2008.

She was pardoned by Putin on March 7 and released on March 12.

According to Pavlov, Sevastidi's request for clemency was dictated by Romashin. The issue is controversial because Russian officials say that a request for a pardon requires an admission of guilt, and human rights activists say Sevastidi's conviction was politically motivated.

Pavlov has welcomed Sevastidi's release but said she would continue to seek her exoneration.

However, he said later on March 15 that the Supreme Court reviewed an appeal Sevastidi filed before the pardon and declined to exonerate her, leaving her conviction in place but cutting her seven-year sentence to three years.

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