In an open letter, former Soviet leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mikhail Gorbachev asked Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to show Alexander Ponosov, a Russian teacher from a remote village, mercy as he did not know he was using pirated software in his classroom. Prosecutors accuse Ponosov, headmaster of a middle school in the Perm region, of violating Microsoft's intellectual property rules by using computers in his school which run unlicensed copies of the firm's software. Russia has been mounting a high-profile crackdown on piracy as part of its efforts to join the World Trade Organization.
"A teacher, who has dedicated his life to the education of children and who receives a modest salary that does not bear comparison with the salaries of even regular staff in your company, is threatened with detention in Siberian prison camps. 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. However, in this case we ask you to show mercy and withdraw your complaint against Alexander Ponosov. This noble step will be enthusiastically received by all those in Russia who use Microsoft products," read the letter, posted on the Internet site of Gorbachev's charitable foundation.