NEW YORK CITY |  Three young women are being detained by Russian authorities for allegedly performing a protest song in a cathedral as part of a feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich were arrested in March 2012 and charged with “hooliganism.”  If found guilty, they could be jailed for up to 7 years.

The three women are currently in pre-trial detention, which has been extended to January 2013.

Amnesty International is demanding that Russia immediately release three young women arrested for allegedly singing a protest song that criticizes both the Orthodox Church and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Amnesty International Demands Russia Release Punk Singers Detained Following Church Performance
Amnesty International Demands Russia Release Punk Singers Detained Following Church Performance

Amnesty International has posted a petition demanding that Russian authorities drop all charges and release the three women.  The petition, which can be found here, is addressed to Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika, prosecutor general; Denis Gennadievich Popov, prosecutor of the Moscow’s Central District; and Sergey I. Kislyak, an ambassador.

Here is the long version of the link, which you can copy to your browser:
http://takeaction.amnestyusa.org/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx?c=6oJCLQPAJiJUG&b=6645049&aid=517749

Several members of a music group called Pussy Riot, with their faces covered in balaclavas, sang a protest song entitled, “Virgin Mary, Redeem Us of Putin,” on Feb. 21, 2012 at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The song criticizes the support shown by some representatives of the Orthodox Church to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and calls on the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Putin.

English: Official portrait of Vladimir Putin
Official portrait of Vladimir Putin

The Russian authorities subsequently arrested Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on March 4, and Ekaterina Samusevich on March 15, claiming that they were the masked singers. Although the women admit to being members of the group, they deny any involvement in the protest in the cathedral.

Amnesty International said the charges against the women should be dropped, saying Russian authorities were wrong to charge the women with the serious criminal charge of hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.

The three women deny any involvement in the protest although even if they took part, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful — if, to many, offensive — expression of their political beliefs.

A video montage of the song available on the internet has led to a wide debate surrounding the protest. Prime Minister Putin’s press secretary called the protest “despicable” and said it would be followed “with all the necessary consequences.”

Although a representative of the Orthodox Church initially called for mercy for the protestors, subsequent statements by representatives of the Church have called for harsh punishment, including for the women to be prosecuted for inciting hatred on the grounds of religion.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

 

Amnesty International

 

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