Gorbachev Asks Gates to Show 'Pirate' Mercy

A plea to prevent a Russian teacher from being sentenced to detention in Siberian prison camps is coming from an unlikely source: former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The leader wrote an open letter to Microsoft founder Bill Gates asking him to show mercy and intercede on behalf of the accused man.

Gobachev claimed in the letter posted to the Web site of The Gorbachev Foundation Monday that Alexander Ponosov did not know he was committing a crime. Ponosov lives in a small village in the Ural Mountains, located in the western part of Russia.

"We have great respect for the work of Microsoft's programmers ... and are in no way casting doubt on the principle of punishment for intellectual property violations," he was translated by Reuters as saying.

"However, in this case we ask you to show mercy and withdraw your complaint against Alexander Ponosov," Gorbache continued, adding it would be looked upon favorably by Russians who use the company's software.

The actions against the Russian man likely have a lot to do with Russia's entrance into the World Trade Organization. The company has begun to crack down on piracy, and is expected to pass stricter legislation on the matter by June of this year.

Posnov is accused of loading computers in the school he runs with unlicensed copies of Microsoft software. However, he is defending himself by saying he had no knowledge that his actions were illegal.

Unfortunately, Microsoft says its hands are tied in the matter and it cannot get involved in the case.

"Mr. Ponosov's case is a criminal case and as such was initiated and investigated by the public prosecutor's office in Russia. Microsoft has no intention of making a civil claim against Mr. Ponosov. We are confident that the Russian courts will make a fair decision in Mr. Ponosov’s case after comprehensive analysis of all related details," a company spokesperson told BetaNews.

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