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Pussy Riot’s Conviction Highlights Russian Human Rights Abuses

By Zack Beauchamp  

"Pussy Riot’s Conviction Highlights Russian Human Rights Abuses"

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Pussy Riot members stand trial.

A Russian court sentenced three members of the feminist, anti-Putin punk band Pussy Riot on Friday to two years in jail for performing an anti-Putin song at a cathedral. The specific charge was “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” but the trial was widely seen as motivated by the anti-government sentiment in the song. Here’s the song in question (translated lyrics on the YouTube page):

The charged religious, political, and gendered context of the incident has generated a global outcry against the Putin regime’s suppression of free speech. In light of that, it’s worth remembering this isn’t an isolated incident. Another group of dissident Russians is facing massive prison time simply for participating in a legal anti-Putin rally:

With the eyes of Russia-watchers trained on Pussy Riot, the feminist punk performance-art group whose now-famous trio is bracing for a verdict over their iconoclastic performance at a Moscow cathedral, the plight of Artyom Savyolov has drawn little attention.

Savyolov and at least 11 other young Russians could face stiff prison sentences for taking part in a sanctioned antigovernment protest in Moscow that erupted into clashes between police and demonstrators.

More than 400 people were detained at the May 6 rally, which took place on the eve of the inauguration of Vladimir Putin for a third term as president.

Sixteen of the demonstrators remain in custody and at least 12 of them, including Savyolov, have been charged with calling for mass disorder and assaulting police officers. They could each face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The persecution of Pussy Riot and Savyolov’s group is par for the course in modern Russia. The Putin government routinely jails dissident journalists and activists as part of a broader campaign to undermine Russian democracy. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, to give the last word to convicted Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich:

I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated. The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial. Once again, the world sees Russia differently than the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings. Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law has been taken. And his statement that this court will be objective and hand down a fair verdict is yet another deception of the entire country and the international community. That is all. Thank you.

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