Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich – have been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred at the conclusion of their widely reported trial in Moscow for performing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin on the altar of the Cathedral Of Christ The Saviour Of The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. Paul McCartney has now joined artistes including Madonna, Rufus Wainwright and Bjork in supporting the three saying “I’m writing to show my support for you at this difficult time. I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest. Many people in the civilised world are allowed to voice their opinions and as long as they do not hurt anyone in doing so I believe this is the best way forward for all societies. I hope you can stay strong and believe that I and many others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in our power to support you and the idea of artistic freedom”.
State prosecutors had asked for the defendants to be jailed for three years and whilst Marina Syrova Judge did not immediately issue a sentence as she read out the verdict, she subsequently jailed each of the defendants for two years in a widely criticised sentence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sentences was “excessively harsh” and around the globe supporters of the group donned trademark multi coloured balaclavas in street protests. Judge Syrova said the girl’s actions were “sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the Church’s rules”.
For background see MLU August 2012