Russia: Detention of Pussy Riot members extended again

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Russia:
Detention of Pussy Riot members extended again

On 20 June 2012, a Tagansky district court ruled to keep the three detained band members of Pussy Riot in prison until 24 July 2012 while the police probe continues.

Since February 2012, three band members of the all-female punk rock band from Moscow have been in the Butyrskaya prison, while two other members are hiding out in Europe. Their legal troubles are the result of an incident on 21 February when Pussy Riot tried to perform one of its songs — what they call a “punk prayer” — titled ‘Mother of God, Expel Putin’ in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 – were arrested, accused of hooliganism, and now face prison sentences of up to seven years.

“They are being treated as if they were dangerous political prisoners,” wrote Victor Davidoff, a Moscow-based writer and journalist, in The Moscow Times: “Prosecutors spent three months investigating the videotaped incident that lasted no longer than a minute. The rockers have been in detention since their arrest in February. The court has regularly turned down their lawyers’ requests to release them on bail, despite the fact that two of them have young children.”

The extension of the imprisonment is particularly harsh in light of the fact that two of the women have young children from whom they have been separated for four months. 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.

Further investigation
The Tagansky district court’s decision on 20 June said that they should stay in custody while an investigation is carried out. According to press reports the court reasoned that the defendants could “destroy evidence” if they were freed.

Outside the court building police detained about 20 of Pussy Riot supporters who whistled in unison, chanted anti-Kremlin slogans and clashed with Orthodox activists. Others gathered outside the courthouse included journalists, bloggers and a number of people with white ribbons as a symbol of opposition. Some carried white roses, while others wore shirts that said “Prison for a song?”. Several well-known opposition figures made appearances at the hearing as well.

The German government’s human rights commissioner, Markus Loening, said he was “dismayed” by the decision to extend the band members’ custody and called for their immediate release.

PEN International which runs a letter campaign calling for the release of the three Pussy Riot band members sent a press release stating it is “shocked” by the Russian court’s decision.

Sources

PEN International – 26 April 2012:
RUSSIA: PEN Joins Calls for Release of Pussy Riot Band Members

PEN International published a translation of
Pussy Riot’s “punk prayer” Punk Moleben

PEN Russia’s
Open letter to Vladimir Putin in support of Pussy Riot members

The Moscow Times – 24 June 2012:
The Witch Hunt Against Pussy Riot



The punk group Pussy Riot is one of the most controversial voices in Russia today



Russia


About Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot is a punk collective that formed in September 2011, only days after Vladimir Putin’s announcement that he intended to return to presidency. “A lot of us couldn’t sleep after this announcement”, ‘Tyurya’ – one of the founding members – told the Guardian. “So we decided, damn it, we need to do something. We always went to protests and things, but it seemed to us we needed to do something more.”

The punk collective consists of roughly 30 people including crew. Pussy Riot members are sworn to anonymity, wearing brightly coloured balaclavas hiding their faces during concerts as wells as interviews.

In the beginning, Pussy Riot performed on trams and in the metro and other unexpected places, and videos of these flash gigs with critical lyrics began spreading on the internet. The feminist punk-band and their provocative anti-Putin lyrics soon became a symbol of the Russian youth’s discontent.

In the end of 2011, Pussy Riot held a short support concert on top of the prison where protest leader Alexey Navalny was jailed for 15 days after his arrest during the post-election protest on 5 December. “Death to prison! Freedom to protest!”, three of the members sang while setting off red flares.

In mid-January 2012 the band made the news-papers with a performance on the Red Square. Eight women stood in line opposite the Kremlin, fists pounding in the air singing and shouting: “Revolt in Russia – the charisma of protest! Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared!” The protest only lasted for a few minutes before the women were arrested. They were questioned and released with administrative fines instead of the 15-day jail sentences that are often received by those staging illegal protests.

Pussy Riot are hard-core feminists inspired by Russian revolutionaries: “There is a deep tradition in Russia of gender and women – we’ve had amazing women revolutionaries”, ‘Garazhda’ told the Guardian. “The revolution should be done by women”, she said. “For now, they don’t beat or jail us as much.” The interview was conducted before the arrest of Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samusevich.

On 21 February 2012, five members of Pussy Riot wearing colourful dresses, stockings and knitted neon balaclavas, danced, bowed and crossed themselves while singing an acapella version of a song entitled ‘Holy Sh*t’ at the altar in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The ‘punk-prayer’ has the chorus: “Virgin Mary, Become Feminist. Virgin Mary, Hash Putin Away”. The performance lasted for less than a minute after which the band members are removed from the church by the guards.

On 4 March 2012 Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were arrested and on 15 March Ekaterina Samusevich was arrested, all three accused of being the masked singers of Pussy Riot performing in Christ the Saviour Cathedral. They face up to seven years in prison if convicted on the charges of hooliganism.

More sources

Free Pussy Riot campaign web page:

freepussyriot.org

Ria Novosti – 17 April 2012:

‘Protesters Detained Ahead of Pussy Riot Court Appearance’

BBC UK – 19 April 2012:

‘Russia election: Arrests at ‘Pussy Riot’ hearing’

The Moscow Times – 5 March 2011:

‘Demonstrators Arrested at Pussy Riot Hearing’

Ria Novosti – 16 April 2012:

‘Russia’s pop queen wants freedom for Pussy Riot’

Amnesty International Public Statement – 3 April 2012:

‘Russia: Release punk singers held after performance in church’

Cathleen Hanna’s blog – 27 March 2012:

‘Free Pussy Riot!!!!’

The Guardian – 2 February 2012:

‘Feminist punk band Pussy Riot take revolt to the Kremlin’


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