On August 17, Moscow’s Khamovnicheskii District Court sentenced three young women from Pussy Riot to two years imprisonment in a penal colony for “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred”. Their lawyers informed the Court that they will appeal the decision.
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested and detained after performing a ’’punk prayer’’ on the altar of Moscow’s central cathedral on 21 February 2012. The performance urged divine intervention to ensure Mr Putin does not win the presidential elections. The song, entitled “Virgin Mary, redeem us from Putin”, criticised the Church’s active role in the political sphere as well as the support given by the Orthodox Church to Putin’s regime.
“By sentencing these women to two years in prison, the judiciary is blatantly violating international human rights standards, in particular the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of expression. The trial has been marred by grave and recurrent irregularities; these convictions show how far the Putin regime is prepared to go to silence dissenting voices”, declared FIDH President, Souhayr Belhassen.
This ruling takes place in a context of increasing government control over freedom of expression. Several controversial amendments adopted by the Russian parliament in June and July, and the up-coming trials of those arrested for participation in anti-Putin demonstrations in May 2012 also illustrate that worrying trend.