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1 Pussy Riot Member Free, 2 Sent To Penal Colony

1 Pussy Riot Member Free, 2 Sent To Penal Colony

A Russian appeals court has freed Yekaterina Samutsevich, one of the three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, but upheld two-year sentences in a penal colony for her bandmates Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

The three judges for the Moscow City Court have still upheld the guilty verdict delivered to all three women last August when Alyokhina, Samutsevich and Tolokonnikova were convicted on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a less-than-a-minute “punk prayer” on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February.

The verdict  has been widely condemned around the world as a sign of the Kremlin’s suppression of free speech under President Vladimir Putin. On a documentary aired on Russian NTV television last Sunday, Putin (who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, to much fanfare in some circles) said that the three Pussy Riot members had “got what they asked for” and that he had nothing to do with the case. Putin claimed that imprisoning the three women was necessary to preserve nothing less than Russian society:

“It’s right that they were arrested, it’s right that the court took that decision, because you can’t undermine the foundations of morality, our moral values, destroy the country. What would we be left with then?”

As the BBC notes, a majority of Russians support the Pussy Riot members’ sentences. In an online BBC forum, some Russians claimed that they had “desecrated” the cathedral and expressed surprised that others around the would have supported the three women.

Samutsevich’s new lawyer, Irina V. Khrunova, argued that she had played less of a role in the “punk prayer” than Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova and that a lower-court judge had failed to take this into account. While Samutsevich had intended to participate as much as the other two women in the performance, she was apprehended before being able to do so and removed from the cathedral, Khrunova emphasized.

Before Samutsevich’s release was announced, all three women gave impassioned speeches in which they asserted that they had committed no crime and that political opposition to Putin, not religious hatred, was the reason for their actions. Tolonnikova said that

“It is clear as daylight that this performance was purely political. It was under no circumstances antireligious. There is no religious hatred in me, I have no reason to have religious hatred. And none of us in our performance had it, none at all.”

Alyokhina stated that “We’re all innocent… the verdict should be overturned. The Russian justice system looks discredited.” She insisted that the it would be “unacceptable” and “a kind of blackmail” for them to repent.

After being embraced by her bandmates in the glass cage where the three women have been held in the courtroom and with supporters cheering, the 30-year-old Samutsevich walked free after serving six months in a pre-trial detention center.

Stanislav O. Samutsevich said of his daughter’s release, “What happiness! But what a shame about the other girls – they don’t deserve such a harsh punishment.” According to the BBC, Samutsevich had to “literally run away from journalists” after she was freed; she was then whisked away in a red Honda. Her father remained behind and said that she and the other Pussy Riot members remain united and that, as much as she can within the conditions of her bail, she plans to fight for to free Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova, who both are mothers to young children and who must also be released, in the name of freedom of speech and human rights.

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75 comments

+ add your own
4:11PM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

Let's keep the pressure on!

5:37PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

@Carol R. I can't agree. The point is that "show in the Temple" was not their first action. For instance, previously they made similar show near the Kremlin, and they attacked Putin in an obviously vulgar manner. All their punishment was a fine about $15 that didn't stop them.

3:40PM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

They have been punished enough for their silly act. Acts of defiance in Russia is dangerous to ones health and well being unfortunately.

5:51AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Bernie P wrote: "Doing what they did in this way in a church was NOT CLEVER OR SENSIBLE......so not surprised they got this reaction from the law..."

Bernie, since when did noisily interrupting a church service earn two years in a penal colony? Because that's the only thing they did which is against the law. I agree that what they did was not clever or sensible, but the sentence is totally disproportionate. If somebody insists on disrupting some sort of public occasion such as a church service or a play, it would be reasonable to call the police, and I might well expect them to end up with a fine and perhaps a suspended sentence. But two years in a penal colony? No. Especially when according to another Care2 article, conditions in Russian prisons are so appalling that 2000 people have actually died over the last six months.

5:35AM PDT on Oct 17, 2012

Doing what they did in this way in a church was NOT CLEVER OR SENSIBLE......so not surprised they got this reaction from the law...

There are other places to protest in this manner!!

11:06PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

I have my doubts. It does seem that because the crime has political overtones that we in the West are supposed to overlook the actual crime itself. I would think the the fact the US is so lenient with civil/political disturbances that we think every body else should be too. That is certainly not true.

7:58PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

I have so much respect for these women. It's a shame the oppression exists and people who stand up for civil rights and equality are demonized.

5:48PM PDT on Oct 15, 2012

thank you --ridiculous what they do to these mothers for speaking their minds

4:15AM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

Juliet D. The Russians did not replace the Tzar, He rules, His name is Putin.

1:12AM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

Thanks

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches ancient Greek, Latin and Classics at Saint Peter's University in New Jersey.... more
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