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Appeals court in Russia frees Pussy Riot member, confirms sentences for two others

(WiPC/IFEX) - 10 October 2012 - PEN International's Writers in Prison Committee welcomes today's news that one of the three Pussy Riot band members accused of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, Ekaterina Samusevich, has been freed on a suspended sentence. However, two other band members, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, remain in prison to serve the remainder of their two year sentences in a penal colony. That the two women remain in prison, and that the third, while free, has not been acquitted, is deeply shocking. PEN International continues to call for their immediate and unconditional release.

The three women have been held for more than six months, having been arrested in early March shortly after the punk band staged a flash performance of their "Punk Prayer", a song criticizing the close relationship between the Orthodox Church and Putin, at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

A video recording of the event, which was curtailed after a few minutes when church officials removed the band members from the premises, has been widely circulated on the internet, leading Pussy Riot to become internationally famous as symbols of the growing repression of dissent in Russia.

According to a report on today's appeal hearing by Miriam Elder, who has been covering the trial for the Guardian, Samusevich was freed when the judge ruled that she 'did not engage in the "aggressive movements" that had offended Russia's Orthodox believers' as she had been thrown out of the Cathedral before she could take part in the performance.

As the other two women bid Samusevich good-bye from the glass walled box in which they are held during the trial hearings, Elder reports, Alyokhina told the court "I have lost all hope in the court ... but I want again and for the last time, because we probably won't get another chance, to talk about our motives. Dear believers, we did not mean to offend you."

Appeals
Please send letters:

- Expressing shock at the two year sentences against Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich;

- Welcoming the suspended release on appeal of Ekaterina Samusevich, but noting that her freedom is not unconditional;

- Pointing out that the harsh sentence is clearly in retaliation for the lyrics of the song performed by Pussy Riot members, which were strongly critical of the Church and of President Putin in particular, and is thus in breach of international conventions, specifically Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a signatory;

- Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, and the complete dismissal of the charges against all three women.

Address:
You can send messages to President Putin on the Kremlin website
http://eng.letters.kremlin.ru/

Or by mail:
President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132
Russia

You may find that the Russian ambassador in your own country is 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: http://www.freepussyriot.org

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