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Call for release of Pussy Riot members prior to 10 October appeal

The court heard the appeal against the two-year sentence handed to Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich on 10 October 2012. Samusevich was freed on a suspended sentence. Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova will serve the remainder of their two-year sentences in a penal colony.

Igor Mukhin
Igor Mukhin
UPDATE: The Moscow city court delayed the scheduled 1 October 2012 appeal hearing until 10 October 2012 after band member Yekaterina Samutsevich said she wanted to change her lawyer. Since the 17 August 2012 sentencing, the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has called for the release of the band members, and Russian Orthodox Deacon Sergei Baranov was voluntarily defrocked in protest of the church's stance against the women.

Take action now to influence the appeal process!

Here are three things you can do:

1. Sign the petition on Change.org calling on Russia and its supporters to free the members of Pussy Riot: Free Pussy Riot! Almost 145,000 have signed this petition started by Peaches and other musicians. Sign it and watch the support video here.

2. Send this Amnesty International letter calling on the Russian authorities to immediately release the three women who were detained and sentenced solely for peacefully expressing their beliefs.

3. Send a personal message to President Putin urging him to respect freedom of expression and to immediately and unconditionally release Maria Alyokhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Be sure to copy the Russian ambassador in your own country. The list is on line here.


Background:

Pussy Riot is an anonymous Russian feminist performance art group formed in October 2011. Through a series of peaceful performances in highly visible places, the group has given voice to basic rights under threat in Russia today, expressing the values and principles of gender equality, democracy and freedom of expression contained in the Russian constitution and other international instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the CEDAW Convention.

On 17 August 2012, three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of “hooliganism,” and were each sentenced to two years in jail after performing their "punk prayer" in a Moscow church, criticising the Russian Orthodox Church's endorsement of President Putin. The three members, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samusevich had been held in pre-trial detention since March 2012.

Imprisoned members of the group Pussy Riot are:

  • Maria Alyokhina, 24. Poet and Student at the Institute of Journalism and Creative writing. Mother of 5-year-old boy.

  • Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23. Visual Artist and 4th year Philosophy Student. Mother of 4-year-old girl.

  • Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29. Visual Artist, degree from The Alexander Rodchenko School of Photography and Multimedia, Moscow.

    On 21 February, four members of 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.

    One week after the performance, an edited video of Pussy Riot performing, both in the church and elsewhere, appeared on Youtube, and a week after that the police were instructed to arrest the group's known members.

    Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich were arrested and charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum seven-year jail term, although the prosecutor called for a three year sentence.

    The group says on their website, "The intention of the performance was to draw attention to the special relationship between President Putin and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church."

    Since March 4th, the women sat in pre-trial detention, refused bail due to what the authorities termed as "fear for the women's safety."

    PEN International published a translation of their "punk prayer" Punk Moleben and its context.

    For recent news, see:
    Prison sentences for Pussy Riot violate freedom of expression (ARTICLE 19)
    Freedom House condemns conviction of Pussy Riot in Russia (Freedom House)
    Pussy Riot and Russia's surreal 'justice' (Human Rights Watch)
    Supporters of Pussy Riot protest 17 August, 2012 verdict.
    Supporters of Pussy Riot protest 17 August, 2012 verdict.
    http://freepussyriot.org
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