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Free Pussy Riot

    Friday, July 19, 2013 - 00:00

    Young women sentenced to two years in a penal colony for singing a protest song in a cathedral.

    SUCCESS. THIS ACTION IS NOW CLOSED
    Learn more: "Pussy Riot Freed"

    “Many people have realized that something is wrong here…Next time they see someone doing something publicly or posting media work online, they will recognize it as art and not hooliganism.”
    Pussy Riot member Ekaterina “Katia” Samutsevich during an interview with Amnesty International

    In February 2012, members of Pussy Riot played mere seconds of a protest song ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral.  The band had staged previous protests against restriction on free speech and political oppression in Russia.

    Three members of the group – Nadezhda "Nadya" Tolokonnikova, Maria "Masha" Alekhina and Ekaterina “Katia” Samutsevich – were arrested the following month and charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred”. On August 17, they were sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

    Katia was conditionally released following an appeal in October 2012. Nadya and Masha, however, are still serving sentences in notoriously brutal penal colonies. Despite being young mothers with small children, a request for their sentence to be deferred until their children turn 14 years old was not granted. Both were also refused parole. Further appeals on July 24 (Masha) and July 26 (Nadya) were again denied.

    Amnesty believes that the trial of the Pussy Riot members was politically motivated, and that they were wrongfully prosecuted for what was a legitimate—if potentially offensive—protest action. Amnesty considers Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova to be prisoners of conscience. There are serious concerns for their safety.

    Please use the form on the right hand side to join Amnesty’s call for their immediate and unconditional release.

    Freedom of expression in Russia

    One and half years after Pussy Riot’s protest performance, the space for political opposition and other forms of dissent continues to shrink in the Russian Federation. New laws and regulations make it increasingly difficult to organize protests—demonstrations are routinely banned or unlawfully dispersed—and the re-criminalization of defamation creates new barriers to legitimate criticism of government or public officials.

    As of July 1, 2103, a new “blasphemy” law—believed to be a direct response to the Pussy Riot case— imposes significant restrictions on freedom of expression. The law introduces harsh punishments including up to one year of imprisonment or compulsory labour for “public actions expressing explicit disrespect to society and committed with an aim of insulting the religious sentiments of believers.” Penalties double or triple if the offence is committed in “places designated for religious services, religious rites and ceremonies.” The UN Human Rights Committee has been clear that prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, unless they constitute incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (hate speech).