PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee is shocked at the two year prison sentence handed down today to the three members of the Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samusevich under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. The sentence was read today at the Khamovnichesky Court in Moscow.
The three women had been held in custody since early March with their trial not beginning until July.
During the trial the women were locked in a bulletproof cage and according to their lawyers were not giving food or water for long periods of time. The prosecution and its witnesses argued that the bands act had betrayed a deep hatred of all Orthodox Christians and was not motivated not by their outrage at the Putin regime, as they woman had stated.
PEN International monitored the trial where the defence was repeatedly denied the right to make objections, to call their witnesses and at times even to speak. The repressive nature of this judicial process is of increasing concern for PEN International, further highlighting the ongoing repression of free speech in Russia.
The decision comes nearly 6 months after the three women were taken into custody and charged with “hooliganism” motivated by religious hatred, an offence carrying a maximum seven-year term. On 21 February the three women walked into the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow wearing colourful masks and performed a song with the aim of highlighting the close relationship between the Orthodox Church and Putin.
The women were arrested two weeks later.
According to reports and videos of the event, there was no violence or damage to the premises, and PEN International believes that the women have been treated particularly severely because of the lyrics of the song they performed and is composed in the form of a supplication or intercession prayer, in this case addressed to the Virgin Mary.
The heavy prison sentence announced today, which has caused widespread outrage, is huge blow for freedom of expression in Russia and highlight the growing trend of oppression in the country.
For more information on the case see our RAN alert’s:
PEN International published a translation of their “punk prayer” Punk Moleben and its context:
PEN Russia’s open letter to Vladimir Putin in support of Pussy Riot members:
Please send letters
– Expressing shock at the two year sentences served against Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina
– Adding that long term imprisonment for an action that did not cause physical damage to any person, building or property would in other circumstances have resulted in a lesser punishment, caution or financial penalty ;
– Pointing out that the harsh sentence is clearly in retaliation for the lyrics of the song performed by Pussy Riot members, containing language that is strongly critical of the Church and of President Putin in particular, and is this in breach of international conventions, specifically Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Russia is a signatory;
Therefore calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the three women.
You can send messages to President Putin on the Kremlin website
Or by mail:
President Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation
23, Ilyinka Street,
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.