Background Information

On February 21, four members of the all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot entered the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, wearing brightly colored outfits and balaclavas masking their faces. For a few minutes they danced in front of the altar, singing their “punk prayer” before being removed from the building. 
 
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich were arrested some days later and charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum seven-year gaol term. While the three women are part of the band, they say that they were not among the performers at the Cathedral. On April 19, Tagansky Court in Moscow extended their detention until June 24, saying that more time was needed to find further witnesses and participants at the event. The demonstrations outside the court and statements from the three women were widely covered in the press.
 
According to reports and videos of the event, there was no damage to the premises and no violence. It is clear that the women are being treated particularly harshly because of the lyrics of the song performed. Entitled “Holy Sh*t,” it lashes out at Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, and it includes the lines “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

Amnesty International, which considers the women as prisoners of conscience, states: “Even if the three arrested women did take part in the protest, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities—the detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism—would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful—if, to many, offensive—expression of their political beliefs.”
 
The band had already become famous for other actions. It was formed in late 2011 by a group of feminists to protest Putin’s decision to return as president. Over the following months, they staged sudden unannounced “flash” performances in public places, including on public transport. They came to international attention in January 2012 when they held a brief performance, shouting out the lyrics “Revolt in Russia—the charisma of protest! Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared!” outside the Kremlin. Then they were briefly arrested and fined. For more detail of the arrest and the band see Freemuse, the organization that works against music censorship.
 
Support in Russia is high with even mainstream pop artists calling for their release, among them the iconic singer Alla Pugachyova, who has held pop star status through the Soviet era to the present day. She described the arrests as “shooting sparrows with a cannon.”  There have been numerous protests in support of the band. Most recently around 100 people demonstrated outside the court on April 19, with about 20 arrested. Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia strongly accused the band as “defiling” the church and called for harsh penalties, while other Orthodox believers have expressed disquiet at this hardline stance and have asked that the women be shown leniency.
 
Meanwhile the three women face the prospect of another six weeks in prison, two of them separated from their children. At the April 19 hearing, Tolonnikova spoke of the distress that her four-year-old daughter is suffering because of the imprisonment of her mother. Read more about the Pussy Riot support and activities in their support follow the Free Pussy Riot web site.

 

 

 

Write a Letter

• Protesting the detention of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich;

• Pointing out that they are being treated particularly harshly because of the contents of the song lyrics;

• Referring to Russia’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Russia, which protects the right to freedom of expression;

• Further referring to the fact that the women will be held for more than three months without trial, breaching Article 9 of the ICCPR, which guarantees the right not to be held in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods of time.
 

Send your letter to

Mr. Dmitry Medvedev President of the Russian Federation
Kremlin
Moscow
Russia
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Send a message through the Kremlin web site

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Russia in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after June 23, 2012: ftw@pen.org

RELATED LINKS

“Russian punk band Pussy Riot to appear in court over church gig”
From BBC

“Russian Federation: Release punk singers held after performance in church”
From Amnesty International

“Detention of Pussy Riot members extended to three months”
From Freemuse

Free Pussy Riot!
 

 

 

Background Information

On February 21, four members of the all-female punk rock band Pussy Riot entered the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow, wearing brightly colored outfits and balaclavas masking their faces. For a few minutes they danced in front of the altar, singing their “punk prayer” before being removed from the building. 
 
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich were arrested some days later and charged with “hooliganism” under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code, which carries a maximum seven-year gaol term. While the three women are part of the band, they say that they were not among the performers at the Cathedral. On April 19, Tagansky Court in Moscow extended their detention until June 24, saying that more time was needed to find further witnesses and participants at the event. The demonstrations outside the court and statements from the three women were widely covered in the press.
 
According to reports and videos of the event, there was no damage to the premises and no violence. It is clear that the women are being treated particularly harshly because of the lyrics of the song performed. Entitled “Holy Sh*t,” it lashes out at Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, and it includes the lines “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”

Amnesty International, which considers the women as prisoners of conscience, states: "Even if the three arrested women did take part in the protest, the severity of the response of the Russian authorities—the detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism—would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful—if, to many, offensive—expression of their political beliefs."
 
The band had already become famous for other actions. It was formed in late 2011 by a group of feminists to protest Putin’s decision to return as president. Over the following months, they staged sudden unannounced “flash” performances in public places, including on public transport. They came to international attention in January 2012 when they held a brief performance, shouting out the lyrics “Revolt in Russia—the charisma of protest! Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared!” outside the Kremlin. Then they were briefly arrested and fined. For more detail of the arrest and the band see Freemuse, the organization that works against music censorship.
 
Support in Russia is high with even mainstream pop artists calling for their release, among them the iconic singer Alla Pugachyova, who has held pop star status through the Soviet era to the present day. She described the arrests as “shooting sparrows with a cannon.”  There have been numerous protests in support of the band. Most recently around 100 people demonstrated outside the court on April 19, with about 20 arrested. Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow and All Russia strongly accused the band as “defiling” the church and called for harsh penalties, while other Orthodox believers have expressed disquiet at this hardline stance and have asked that the women be shown leniency.
 
Meanwhile the three women face the prospect of another six weeks in prison, two of them separated from their children. At the April 19 hearing, Tolonnikova spoke of the distress that her four-year-old daughter is suffering because of the imprisonment of her mother. Read more about the Pussy Riot support and activities in their support follow the Free Pussy Riot web site.

 

 


 

Write A Letter

• Protesting the detention of Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich;

• Pointing out that they are being treated particularly harshly because of the contents of the song lyrics;

• Referring to Russia’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Russia, which protects the right to freedom of expression;

• Further referring to the fact that the women will be held for more than three months without trial, breaching Article 9 of the ICCPR, which guarantees the right not to be held in pre-trial detention for lengthy periods of time.
 

Send Your Letter To


Mr. Dmitry Medvedev President of the Russian Federation
Kremlin
Moscow
Russia
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408
Send a message through the Kremlin web site

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Russia in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after June 23, 2012: ftw@pen.org

RELATED LINKS

"Russian punk band Pussy Riot to appear in court over church gig"
From BBC

"Russian Federation: Release punk singers held after performance in church"
From Amnesty International

"Detention of Pussy Riot members extended to three months"
From Freemuse

Free Pussy Riot!