Pussy Riot jail terms condemned as 'disproportionate'
Published: 18th Aug 2012 00:08:17
The US, EU and rights groups have condemned jail sentences imposed on three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot over an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.
The women were sentenced to two years in prison for hooliganism.
The US and EU said the sentences were disproportionate. Amnesty International said they must be overturned.
Russia's Orthodox Church said the protest was a "blasphemy" but also appealed for clemency for the women.
The sentences were handed down in Moscow by Judge Marina Syrova, who found Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
She said they had "crudely undermined social order".
The women said their protest, in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February, was directed at the Orthodox Church leader's support for Mr Putin, who two weeks later was elected for a third term as Russia's president.
US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was "concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences... and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia".
The Russian government has brought down a chorus of condemnation on itself, but the question is how much it really cares about that.
Firstly, many in Russia were genuinely outraged about the protest in the cathedral, and Vladimir Putin will be hoping to gain support from that conservative constituency.
Secondly, he seems to believe that the way to deal with dissent in Russia at the moment is to apply pressure on the new opposition rather than to engage with them.
Thirdly, international condemnation could actually help him appeal to those parts of Russian society who are still deeply distrustful of the West.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the US had "serious concerns about the way that these young women have been treated by the Russian judicial system".
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the jail terms questioned Moscow's respect for the "obligations of fair, transparent and independent legal process".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sentences were "excessively harsh", adding: "Today's verdict calls into question Russia's commitment to protect these fundamental rights and freedoms."
Amnesty International strongly condemned the court's ruling, saying it showed "that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle civil society".
BBC diplomatic correspondent Bridget Kendall says that although some say Pussy Riot went too far, Mr Putin and his government cannot have wanted the negative publicity the trial has generated.
Street protests in Russia had largely subsided, our correspondent says, but now there is a new cause for the country's fractured opposition groups to unite around.
A series of small but vocal protests were held in support of the band members in a number of cities across the world - including in Belgrade, Kiev, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona.
Six protesters wearing trademark Pussy Riot face masks were arrested for public order offences in New York.
The sentencing of three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot
The Russian Orthodox Church itself, while maintaining the protest was a "blasphemy", called for clemency.
It said in a statement: "Without doubting the legitimacy of the court ruling, we ask the state authorities to show mercy for the convicted within the framework of the law in the hopes that they will refrain from repeating their sacrilegious acts."
Mr Putin has himself said the defendants should not be judged too harshly but, after sentencing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president could not intervene in the judicial process.
Opinion polls in Russia have shown little support for Pussy Riot.
One recent poll of Russians released by the Levada research group showed only 6% sympathised, while 51% felt antipathy or had nothing good to say about them.
One band critic, Igor Kim, told the BBC News website from Moscow: "Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics."
Along with other members of their band, the women had staged a flashmob-style performance of their song close to the altar in the cathedral on 21 February.
Ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among several people arrested
Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out", enraged the Orthodox Church.
Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich smiled as the widely predicted conviction was announced on Friday.
Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said: "Russia's image was quite scary even before [this]. What happened now is a clear sign that Russia is moving towards becoming more like China or North Korea."
Samutsevich's father, Stanislav, said she was prepared for a prison sentence. "We tried to comfort her," he said.
The defendants will appeal but will not ask Mr Putin for a pardon, their lawyer said.
A number of Pussy Riot supporters, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov, were arrested outside the court.
Are you in Russia? What is your reaction to the verdict? You can send us your comments using the form below.
If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.
Terms and conditions
At 06:59:04 in WalesCash-strapped Welsh councils have spent nearly twice as much on making staff redundant as they did last year, BBC Wales has learned.
At 06:42:02 in WorldAt least 14 children were killed along with their driver when a school bus was hit by a train in the Indian state of Telangana, police say.
At 06:41:23 in HeadlinesThe circumstances surrounding the death of Peaches Geldof are splashed across several front pages.
At 06:31:03 in SportSir Bradley Wiggins says there have been times when he wishes he had never won the Tour de France and Olympic gold in 2012 that brought him national fame.
At 06:25:55 in SportNew Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal made a winning start as Wayne Rooney scored twice in a 7-0 defeat of LA Galaxy in front of a crowd of 86,432 at the Rose Bowl in California.
At 06:25:47 in EnglandAs spectacular as the Giants show in Liverpool promises to be, organisers say it would be nothing without its army of "Lilliputians", the people who animate the huge marionettes.
At 06:23:02 in ScotlandIt had been seven years in the planning.
At 06:16:29 in EnglandA masterplan for Oxford station, which includes a new bus station and upgrades to the area, is to be launched later.
At 05:52:57 in WorldA Chinese man has pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle sensors made for the US military to China.
At 05:39:49 in HeadlinesThe US aviation regulator has lifted its ban on US carriers flying to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Pussy Riot jail terms condemned as 'disproportionate' [Online] (Updated 18th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1446888/Pussy-Riot-jail-terms-condemned-as-disproportionate [Accessed 24th Jul 2014]
News In Other Categories
TV star Courteney Cox surprised travellers in Londonderry when she arrivied at the city's airport on Wednesday.
Eighteen websites have been suspended and arrests made during a campaign, being revamped on Thursday, against pensions cash "predators".
The US aviation regulator has lifted its ban on US carriers flying to Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport.
New camera technology is allowing wildlife film-makers to get ever more stunning shots. But can we believe everything we see on natural history programmes? And why do hyenas keep eating the cameras?
At least 14 children were killed along with their driver when a school bus was hit by a train in the Indian state of Telangana, police say.
Sir Bradley Wiggins says there have been times when he wishes he had never won the Tour de France and Olympic gold in 2012 that brought him national fame.