[JURIST] A spokesperson for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official website] on Tuesday announced that Medvedev's administration will modify a legislative proposal that would change the definition of treason, state secrets, and espionage, amid criticisms that the current text could limit human rights. Civil rights activists have warned that the bill would allow the government to arrest any government critic [statement text, in Russian; JURIST report], as it would extend the definition of treason [Moscow Times report] to include damage to Russia's constitutional order, sovereignty, or territorial integrity. Medvedev's First Deputy Chief of Staff Vladislav Surkov [official profile] said Tuesday that the president ordered the bill to be reviewed in light of the criticisms to ensure no rights would be curtailed.
In December, rights activists characterized the bill, which was submitted by the cabinet of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin [official website], as a "terrible blow" and a repetition of the Stalin regime. Earlier this month, Medvedev signed in to law [JURIST report] amendments [text, in Russian] to the country's penal code ending jury trials for terrorism or treason suspects and giving prosecutors broader investigative authority on terrorism or treason related cases. Critics fear that the amendments will decrease transparency [JURIST report] in the Russian judicial system, particularly if the bill expanding the definition of treason is passed. Opponents also say the combination of the two measures could allow the government to take unchecked action [Los Angeles Times report] against political dissenters. Medvedev's Tuesday announcement is being closely observed as a possible sign of a rift between Putin and Medvedev.