Imprisoned Russian Lawyer Delivers Baby While in Custody

By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, November 29, 2008

MOSCOW, Nov. 28 -- Svetlana Bakhmina, the jailed lawyer whose request for a Kremlin pardon sparked an outpouring of support in Russian society, gave birth to a baby girl in state custody Friday at an undisclosed hospital outside Moscow, her attorney and friends said.

Both mother and child were in good health, but it was unclear how long they would be permitted to remain together, said her lawyer, Roman Golovkin. "I hope they will be together at least a few weeks," he said.

Bakhmina, 39, was arrested in December 2004 on embezzlement charges in a government campaign against her employer, the Yukos oil company, and its chief, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then the wealthiest man in Russia.

Many of her supporters say she is innocent and the victim of a political feud between then-President Vladimir Putin and Khodorkovsky, who had been using his riches to finance opposition political parties and is now serving an eight-year prison sentence in Siberia.

After one of Bakhmina's high school classmates wrote an online appeal in late September urging Putin's successor, Dmitry Medvedev, to pardon her, more than 87,000 people signed an Internet petition on her behalf. A host of prominent figures in politics and the arts also called on Medvedev to grant her clemency, and the case emerged as an unusually public test of the new president's values and political clout.

Bakhmina won public sympathy in part because she became pregnant in March, when prison officials granted her a furlough for good behavior and let her visit her husband and their two young boys.

This month, the authorities announced that they had moved Bakhmina from a prison hospital in the remote region of Mordovia to a civilian hospital and that she had withdrawn her request for a pardon.

Golovkin said he filed a new request for a pardon shortly afterward but has not received a response. In addition, he said, the defense team petitioned an appeals court to release Bakhmina on parole, and a hearing was scheduled for Dec. 24.

Lower courts have twice rejected Bakhmina's parole applications, most recently in September, when she was six months pregnant.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company