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Amnesty calls Russia's case against Pussy Riot band members "barbaric"

posted 8 Aug 2012, 12:12 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 8 Aug 2012, 12:13 ]

The head of Amnesty International in Washington calls Russia's trial against Pussy Riot band members "barbaric" and the proposed jail term "absurd."

MOSCOW, RUSSIA (AUGUST 8, 2012) (REUTERS) - The head of Amnesty International in Washington, Frank Jannuzi, is calling Russia's trial of three band members of Pussy Riot "barbaric."

Members of the Pussy Riot punk band made their last pleas in court Wednesday (August 8) before a court rules whether they are guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for storming the altar of Moscow's biggest cathedral and beseeching the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.


The three women likened themselves to Soviet-era dissidents in court, saying their trial for performing an anti-Kremlin stunt on a cathedral altar was unjust, but that nobody could take away their inner freedom.

The state prosecutor has asked the court to sentence them to three years in jail.


Amnesty International is calling on Russia to drop the charges immediately. "To put these three members of the band Pussy Riot in jail for their freedom of expression is barbaric. They should not be held now, they should be released immediately, and we hope that their trial will in fact result in their acquittal," Jannuzi told Reuters TV in an interview.


He also condemned the proposed sentence as being "too harsh" and "absurd".

Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, have already spent nearly 6 months in jail awaiting the trial. They addressed the Moscow court from a glass and metal cage to occasional bursts of applause from supporters.


The case is being seen as an early test of how much dissent Putin - who returned to the presidency in May for a third time - is willing to tolerate.


"Amnesty International and many other groups have been bringing a lot of pressure to bear trying to shed a spotlight on this case because we think it's emblematic of a much broader crackdown underway in Russia. Obviously we hope for a complete acquittal. The charges should be dismissed," Jannuzi said.

A verdict is scheduled to be read on August 17.

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