Verdict in Pussy Riot trial to be delivered today

On Friday 17 August the Moscow court will hand down its verdict against three members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot. The prosecution has called for three-year prison sentences on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. Civil Rights Defenders is critical of the legal process and believes that the reaction from the authorities is a disproportionate response to Pussy Riot’s protest, showing yet again how freedom of expression is threatened in Russia.

Since Vladimir Putin’s return to the Presidency in May this year, Russia has taken a number of measures to restrict freedom of expression in response to the growing protest movement. These include detentions and raids of the homes of prominent opposition activists, the drastic increase of fines for participation in unauthorized rallies, as well as legislation providing for censorship of the Internet, the re-criminalisation of libel, and the requirement that foreign-funded NGOs register as foreign agents.

One of the latest examples of this negative trend is the trial against members of the punk band Pussy Riot. Three of its members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Aliokhina, have been held in custody since March 2012. They were arrested a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral the month prior. Dressed in their characteristic brightly coloured dresses and balaclavas they staged a 41 second long performance in protest against the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency and his endorsement by Patriarch Kirill, who claimed that Orthodox Christians must vote for Putin.

The three women face charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. The prosecution has argued that their intent was to insult Christians, which the Pussy Riot members deny:

“Our criminal case is political censorship from the side of the authorities, the start of a campaign of authoritarian, repressive measures aimed at lowering the level of political activism and provoking a feeling of fear among citizens who hold opposition views,” Yekaterina Samutsevich said in a statement to the court.

The Pussy Riot case has attracted significant international attention. A large number of Russian and international musicians have expressed their support for the group, Madonna being amongst the more recent ones to do so, at a concert in Moscow on 7 August.

Categories: News.
Tags: Freedom of expression, Pussy Riot, and Vladimir Putin.
Regions: Russia.