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Russian Human Rights Official Calls Pussy Riot Sentence ‘Excessive’

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"Russian Human Rights Official Calls Pussy Riot Sentence ‘Excessive’"

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Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Reuters reports that Russia’s human rights “ombudsman,” Vladimir Lukin, said that prison sentences a Russian court handed down to three women from the punk band Pussy Riot were “excessive” and warned that the whole fiasco surrounding the trial is damaging Russian society.

The women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, were convicted of hooliganism after performing an anti-President Vladimir Putin song on the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral and sentenced to two years in a prison colony. Lukin isn’t happy with the result:

“It is a misdemeanour that in a normal, civilised European state is handled in administrative rather than criminal proceedings. That’s why I think the ruling on those women is excessive,” he told a news conference when asked about the case. [...]

He said he hoped an appeals court would “more carefully consider all the aspects of this case” and that as ombudsman he had the right to challenge the verdict once it entered into force if he believed human rights had been violated.

“If the sentence remains the same … I will analyse this thoroughly,” he said.

Lukin said the situation is indicative of what is happening throughout Russia:

“It is regrettable that a poisonous substance of intolerance and brutality is spreading in our society. Recently it has become typical and even fashionable not to discuss problems but to lash about at one another,” Lukin said.

The instinct for dialogue is fading and the fighting instinct is coming into the foreground. This is very dangerous.”

Putin has cracked down hard on dissent, approving new laws restricting public assembly and approving raids on anti-Putin activists’ homes. Russian Wikipedia recently went dark to protest increasing censorship and indeed, the Pussy Riot affair is by no means an isolated one.

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