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Russia: Punk group Pussy Riot to remain in prison

25 June 2012

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.


 



UPDATE 25 June 2012:
Members of President Putin’s United Russia Party have announced they will introduce legislative changes to Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, which will allow for specific charges to be filed for insult on the basis of religion, punishable with up to two years imprisonment.

ARTICLE 19 – 25 June 2012:
Putin’s party threatens law on ‘defamation of religions’ to deal with Pussy Riot
ARTICLE 19 is alarmed by the intention of President Putin’s political party to criminalise so-called ‘defamation of religions’ in retaliation against legitimate artistic expression.


 


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 outcome of the Pussy Riot court case is hard to predict, but it will be a good indicator of which time period Russia will live in — the age of Internet or the age of witch hunts.” By Victor Davidoff


Freemuse – 20 April 2012:
Russia: Detention of Pussy Riot members extended to three months
The detention of the alleged members of Pussy Riot has been extended until 24 June. The three women have been in custody for over a month. Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release.


Freemuse – 7 March 2012:
Russia: Punk band arrested after protesting against Putin
Shortly before the presidential elections in Russia, authorities put an end to punk band Pussy Riot’s anti-Putin protest concerts, held illegally in public places, by arresting six members of the band, reported the newspaper The Moscow Times.


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