French Public Figures Sign Open Letter to Putin Demanding Release of Khodorkovsky

May 31, 2012

A distinguished group of French politicians, writers, journalists, and artists have published an open letter to Vladimir Putin in Le Monde demanding the immediate release of political prisoners including Mikhail Khodorkovsky just days before the new French President Francois Hollande was due to meet with his Russian counterpart. Signatories of the letter included former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, author Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher Andre Glucksmann, the artist Enki Bilal, and many others. The full text in English is included below.

Open letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin

In the first months of your new presidency, as you are today welcomed in France, we, the undersigned, call to your attention an important and urgent issue in Russia that is fully in your power to resolve.

On February 8, the Kremlin Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, constituted of independent experts adressed your predecessor and new Prime minister Dmitri Medvedev, a list of 34 persons, among them doctors, economists, professors, entrepreneurs and writers, considered to be unlawfully imprisoned in your country, subjected to trials not in accordance to the rule of Law, or persecuted for their views. In addition to the Council, a number of personalities from the Russian intellectual and artistic community advised Mr Medvedev to release these wrongfully jailed individuals.

Mr Medvedev did not solve the issue and the resolution of this matter grows more urgent by the day. Some of these prisoners are in critical and failing health situations, like the mother of a five-year-old girl Taisiya Osipova, member of « The Other Russia » opposition movement, who is diabetic and suffering from pancreatitis, and was handed a ten-year sentence on drug charges late last year. Others on this list have been in jail for nearly a decade, men like Mikheil Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev, both qualified as “prisoners of conscience” by Amnesty International.

Well known prisoners are not on this list because they have recently died from inhuman conditions and torture in jails of your country. Sergei Magnitsky or Vasily Aleksanyan, both lawyers, both under 40 years old, have deceased from their passage in prison in conditions unworthy of a state supposed to be sharing the common values recognized by the European Convention of Human Rights. No one else should suffer their fate.

Mr Putin, all countries and all justice courts make errors, sometimes. It would be your honnor to recognize it and free those persons, something that you have the right to do at any moment, a right that is granted to you by your Constitution. We are all seeking for the improvement of partnership relations between your country and ours. But this will only be possible in an environment that promotes, respects and guarantees the rule of law, as you recognize it yourself.

Mr Putin, your predecessor has already pardoned one of 34 individuals on this list, Sergei Mokhnatkin. As you take office again, the eyes of the world are trained on you. We ask you, respectfully, for the immediate release of these 33 men and women so you can send to your own people, but also the world, a sign of a new Russia, modern, democratic and respectful of the universal Human Rights values. Values of which France, which welcomes you today, honors itself.

You are meeting today the French president Francois Hollande, who expressed several times the hope of a higher respect of the fundamental rights in your country. The reinforcement of the partnership between France and Russia, to which all aspire, depends also of the respect of these common values.


Bernard-Henri Lévy, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Bernard Kouchner, André Glucksmann, Michel Hazanavicius, Bérénice Bejo, Enki Bilal, Pascal Bruckner, Nicolas Bedos, Nicole Bacharan, Dominique Simonnet, Galia Ackerman, Stanley Greene, Association Russie-Libertés

Print Friendly, PDF & Email