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Pussy Riot band members face up to seven years in jail as trial closes in Russia

(WiPC/IFEX) - On 8 August 2012, the trial against Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samusevich was closed and the verdict will be given on 17 August. The three members of the Pussy Riot punk group face up to seven years in jail for hooliganism after storming the altar of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February in short dresses and colourful masks to perform a "punk prayer". The lyrics of the song harshly condemn President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church.

PEN International protests the arrest and trial of the three women. It calls on the Russian judiciary to take into consideration the widespread condemnation of the trial, both national and international, and that a conviction would be a clear breach of the women's rights to freedom of expression.

The trial has become the focus of international media attention, with world famous performing artists, including Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, breaking their performances in Moscow to make statements in support of the three women. Little known until their arrest, Pussy Riot has become an international cult figure, in spite of - or because of - the fact that three of its members have been in prison since March, almost six months. Videos of their performance have been widely disseminated through social media, as have images from the past week's extraordinary trial hearings showing the women held in a glass cage, angry exchanges within the court room and demonstrations outside.

PEN International has been monitoring the trial through social media, commenting throughout on Twitter @pen_int and Facebook. See also our trial diary.

Despite the widespread outrage about the trial, there are real fears that the women will be sentenced to jail terms - three years is thought to be likely. The outcome will not be known until 17 August. If they are to serve prison sentences, this will no doubt lead to even greater protests. They have been imprisoned for six months, without access to their children and families, for an act which, although challenging, did not cause physical damage to any person or building, and which in any country respectful of human rights would have attracted no more than a caution or fine. The severity of their treatment is clearly related to their criticism of the Russian church and state, specifically President Putin.

PEN International published a translation of their "punk prayer" Punk Moleben and its context. We also wrote an open letter to Vladimir Putin in support of Pussy Riot members.

RECOMMENDED ACTION:

Please send letters:
- protesting the detention of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich
- referring to the fact that they have already been imprisoned for six months, without access to their children and families, for an act which, although challenging, did not cause physical damage to any person or building, and which in any country respectful of human rights would have attracted no more than a caution or fine
- pointing out that they are being treated particularly harshly because of the contents of the song lyrics, a clear breach of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Russia and which protects the right to freedom of expression

APPEALS TO:

Send messages to President Putin on the Kremlin website.

Or by mail:

President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132
Russia

The Russian ambassador in your own country may be more likely to respond to your appeals, so we recommend that you either write to him or her directly or send a copy of your appeal. You can find the Russian embassy in your country here.

Messages of solidarity to the prisoners can be sent via the FreePussyRiot website.

**Please check with PEN Writers in Prison Committee if sending appeals after 17 August 2012**

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

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