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Persecution of Pussy Riot is Illegal

June 26, 2012

via PEN International

On 21 February 2012, four members of the all-female punk rock band, Pussy Riot, entered the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow, wearing brightly coloured outfits and balaclavas masking their faces. For a few minutes they danced in front of the altar, singing their “punk prayer” before being removed from the building.

Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich were arrested some days later and charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum seven-year gaol term. While the three women are part of the band, they say that they were not among the performers at the Cathedral. On 19 April, Tagansky Court in Moscow extended their detention to 24 June saying that more time was needed to find further witnesses and participants at the event. The demonstrations outside the court and statements from the three women were widely covered in the press.

According to reports and videos of the event, there was no damage to the premises, or violence. It is clear that the women are being treated particularly harshly because of the lyrics of the song they performed. Entitled Holy Sh*t, it lashes out at Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, the it includes the lines “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!” Amnesty International, which considers the women as prisoners of conscience, states: Even if the three arrested women did take part in the protest, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities – the detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism – would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful – if, to many, offensive – expression of their political beliefs. Read the AI statement in full.

The band had already become famous for other actions. It was formed in late 2011 by a group of feminists to protest Putin’s decision to return as President. Over the following months, they staged sudden unannounced “flash” performances in public places, including on public transport. They came to international attention in January 2012, when they held a brief performance, shouting out lyrics “Revolt in Russia – the charisma of protest! Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared! outside the Kremlin. Then they were briefly arrested and fined. For more detail of the arrest and the band see Freemuse, the organisation that works against music censorship:

Support in Russia is high with even mainstream pop artists calling for their release, among them the iconic singer Alla Pugachyova, who has held pop star status through the Soviet era to the present day. She described the arrests as “shooting sparrows with a cannon”. There have been numerous protests in support of the band. Most recently around 100 people demonstrated outside the court on 19 April, with about 20 arrested. Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia strongly accused the band as “defiling” the church and called for harsh penalties, while other Orthodox believers have expressed disquiet at this hardline stance and have asked that the women be shown leniency.

Meanwhile the three women face the prospect of another 6 weeks in prison, two of them are separated from their children. At the 19 April hearing, Tolonnikova spoke of the distress that her four year old daughter is suffering because of the imprisonment of her mother. Read more about the Pussy Riot support and activities in their support follow the Free Pussy Riot website http://freepussyriot.org

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via The Other Russia

A group of independent experts has concluded that the political persecution of members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot is illegal, Kasparov.ru reports.

report written by Yury Kostanov of the Independent Judicial Expertise Council was released by the Presidential Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.“The actions that Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alekhina are incriminated of are certainly at least reproachable, but they do not constitute criminally prosecutable hooliganism,” says the report.

The conclusion was reached after the experts analyzed the decree written by investigators announcing that the women were being charged and the lyrics to the song they performed in the Church of Christ the Savior – the event that sparked the investigation. “After accusing Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich, and Alekhina of collectively committing the actions they are incriminated of by motivation of religious hatred and enmity, the investigator did not conclude that there were any grounds for this,” the report goes on to say.

“Judging by the lyrics of the song performed, the enmity expressed towards V. V. Putin and V. M. Gundyaev is not religious in nature. Religious hatred in the sense of article 213 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation means hatred towards members of a certain religion precisely because of their religious leanings, an active rejection of religious ideals or an assertion of their own religion, or because of atheistic views. Presenting one’s views in a shocking way does not in and of itself constitute a manifestation of hatred towards the Christian (or any other) religion,” Kostanov wrote.

“The decree likely contains the investigator’s expression of judgment of the offense rather than a description of a way of committing a crime,” it concludes.

Last week Moscow’s Tagansky Court extended the pre-trial detention of the three alleged members of Pussy Riot, who have already been held since March 2012. The three face up to seven years in prison for charges of “hooliganism.” Protests outside the court on last week ended numerous arrests.

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via The Moscow News

On June 25, Russian Orthodox church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin declared  God told him in a divine revelation that he condemns members of female punk band Pussy Riot for their scandalous performance in Christ the Savior Cathedral.

“I am convinced that God condemns what they’ve done. I’m convinced that this sin will be punished in this life and the next,” the priest told reporters during a round table organized by The New Times magazine. Chaplin added that “God revealed this to me just like he revealed the Gospels to the church.”

In a possible nod to the ongoing court case against three suspected band members accused of hooliganism, Chaplin said, “There’s only one way out: repentance.” The band’s performance of “Mother of God, Cast Putin Out!” on Feb. 21 has polarized liberal and conservative opinion in the country.

Since their detention, the jailed band members have become known worldwide, with Amnesty International declaring them prisoners of conscience and calling for their release.

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via Global Post

More than 100 of Russia’s best-known cultural icons have signed a petition asking authorities to release three members of the all-female ‘Pussy Riot’ punk band from jail.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina have been held in pre-trial detention since March over their performance of an anti-government song in a Moscow church, AFP explains.

Radio Free Europe reports that among the petition’s signatories are well-known opponents of President Vladimir Putin, such as author Boris Akunin, poet Dmitry Bykov, and the rock singer Yury Shevchuk.  However, it also includes actors Chulpan Khamatova and Yevgeny Mironov who appeared in videos urging Russians to vote for Putin in the March elections.

A copy of the letter which stated: “We do not believe that the actions of Pussy Riot constitute a criminal offense,” was published in the Russian-language Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper, says the Moscow Times.  It continued: “The girls did not kill anyone, they did not rob, did not commit violence, did not destroy or steal anyone’s property . . . We see no legal basis or practical reason for the further isolation of these young women, who do not pose any real danger from society.” Several signatories have filed the petition with the Supreme Court and with the Moscow City Court,according to the Russian Legal Information Agency, RAPSI.

“This is probably the last chance for the authorities to preserve face and to exit this story that has become a symbol for the obscure, senseless and lawless cruelty,” the Russian news blog Gazeta wrote in an editorial.

 

Please sign this on-line petition demanding that the three women in the Pussy Riot case be immediately released : http://www.change.org/petitions/president-vladimir-putin-free-pussy-riot#

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