Friday, April 27, 2012

PEN Appeal: Pussy Riot

PEN Appeal: Pussy Riot April 26, 2012

Source : American PEN
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RUSSIA

PEN International joins international condemnation of the imprisonment of three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot. Last week, on April 19, their pre-trial detention was extended until June 24. Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been held since March 4, and Ekaterina Samusevich since March 15. By the next trial hearing, they will have been held for well over three months without trial. PEN believes that the women are being treated particularly harshly because of the lyrics of a Pussy Riot song that was performed without authorization at St Savior’s Cathedral in Moscow on February 21. PEN calls for the women’s release.
----------------------------------------------------------------------BACKGROUND INFORMATION
On February 21, four members of the all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot entered the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, wearing brightly colored 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. 

Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich were arrested some days later and charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum seven-year gaol term. While the three women are part of the band, they say that they were not among the performers at the Cathedral. On April 19, Tagansky Court in Moscow extended their detention until June 24, saying that more time was needed to find further witnesses and participants at the event. The demonstrations outside the court and statements from the three women were widely covered in the press.

According to reports and videos of the event, there was no damage to the premises and no violence. It is clear that the women are being treated particularly harshly because of the lyrics of the song performed. Entitled “Holy Sh*t,” it lashes out at Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, and it includes the lines “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

Amnesty International
, which considers the women as prisoners of conscience, states: "Even if the three arrested women did take part in the protest, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities—the detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism—would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful—if, to many, offensive—expression of their political beliefs."

The band had already become famous for other actions. It was formed in late 2011 by a group of feminists to protest Putin’s decision to return as president. Over the following months, they staged sudden unannounced “flash” performances in public places, including on public transport. They came to international attention in January 2012 when they held a brief performance, shouting out the lyrics “Revolt in Russia—the charisma of protest! Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared!” outside the Kremlin. Then they were briefly arrested and fined. For more detail of the arrest and the band see Freemuse, the organization that works against music censorship.

Support in Russia is high with even mainstream pop artists calling for their release, among them the iconic singer Alla Pugachyova, who has held pop star status through the Soviet era to the present day. She described the arrests as “shooting sparrows with a cannon.”  There have been numerous protests in support of the band. Most recently around 100 people demonstrated outside the court on April 19, with about 20 arrested. Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia strongly accused the band as “defiling” the church and called for harsh penalties, while other Orthodox believers have expressed disquiet at this hardline stance and have asked that the women be shown leniency.

Meanwhile the three women face the prospect of another six weeks in prison, two of them separated from their children. At the April 19 hearing, Tolonnikova spoke of the distress that her four-year-old daughter is suffering because of the imprisonment of her mother. Read more about the Pussy Riot support and activities in their support follow the Free Pussy Riot web site.


President of the Russian Federation
President Dmitry Medvedev
23, Ilyinka Street
Moscow, 103132
Russia

Dear President Medvedev,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to add our voice to the international condemnation of the imprisonment of Pussy Riot band members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich.

According to our information, on April 19, 2012, the pre-trial detention of band members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich was extended until June 24 to allow more time to find witnesses and participants of the February 21 Pussy Riot performance at St. Savior’s Cathedral in Moscow. They have been charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum seven-year gaol term. Reports and videos of the event show no signs of violence or damage to the premises. It is believed that the women are being treated particularly harshly because of the lyrics of a song entitled “Holy Sh*t!” The song lashes out at Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, and includes the lines “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have been held since March 4, and Ekaterina Samusevich since March 15. The three women are part of the all-female Russian punk band Pussy Riot, formed in late 2011 by a group of feminists protesting Putin’s decision to return to the presidency. However, they claim that they were not among the four performers on February 21 and have since received widespread support within Russia, with more than 100 people demonstrating outside the court on April 19. Singer Alla Pugachyova has described the arrests as “shooting sparrows with a cannon.”

PEN American Center protests the detention of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich, and believes that the women are facing harsh treatment because of the contents of song lyrics, which is in violation of the right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by Russia. In addition, with the extension of their pre-trial detention, the women will be held for more than three months without trial, which breaches Article 9 of the ICCPR. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,
                                  
Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs


CC: Mr. Sergey I. Kislyak
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United States
Embassy of the Russian Federation to the Untied States
2650 Wisconsin Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735


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PLEASE SEND APPEALS...
• Protesting the detention of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich;

• Pointing out that they are being treated particularly harshly because of the contents of the song lyrics;

• Referring to Russia’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Russia, which protects the right to freedom of expression;

• Further referring to the fact that the women will be held for more than three months without trial, breaching Article 9 of the ICCPR, which guarantees the right not to be held in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods of time.

SEND APPEALS TO...
Mr. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Kremlin
Moscow
Russia
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Send a message through the Kremlin web site

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Russia in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after June 23, 2012: ftw@pen.org

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Russian punk band Pussy Riot to appear in court over church gig

Three women detained for singing a political punk song in Moscow's main cathedral will ask a court to set them free later this week. If found guilty they face up to seven years in prison.
The actions of the group have sparked a furious debate over the role of the church, which has asked for the women to be treated severely.
Daniel Sandford reports.

Source : BBC

 


 

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