Russian punk band’s plight galvanizes artists, rights groups, leaders
Los Angeles Times
Aug. 17, 2012
By Carol J. Williams
The prison sentencing Friday of members of the band Pussy Riot by a Russian court has united a diverse list of pop stars, human rights advocates and political leaders from around the world who view the imprisonment of the band as a shocking example of Kremlin repression.
Paul McCartney, Madonna, Sting, Bjork and up-and-coming punksters were joined by the U.S. government, the European Union, Human Rights Watch and a civil society foundation headed by former world chess champion Garry Kasparov in expressing concern for the fate of freedom of speech in Russia.
The two-year prison sentences handed down by a Russian court after a widely denounced trial galvanized the disparate voices and appeals for clemency for the band members, whose February “punk prayer” for Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s downfall was met with what is viewed as a concerted effort to stifle dissent in post-Soviet Russia.
Commentaries posted to media websites in the United States and Europe condemned the Russian leadership for punishing the trio for staging a political protest stunt at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, which prosecutors branded “premeditated hooliganism” and charged the women with a hate crime.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich stood in handcuffs in a glassed-in dock of the Moscow courtroom as the verdict was read and witnesses were cited accusing them of sacrilege and Satanic gestures in the hallowed temple of the Russian Orthodox Church. The judge’s reading was interrupted by a blast of punk rock music from an apartment across the street from the courtroom, The Times’ Sergei Loiko reported from the scene. At least 60 supporters protesting outside the courthouse, including Kasparov, were arrested and taken away by police.
While Pussy Riot was little known outside Moscow alternative music circles until the cathedral protest six months ago — despite provocative stunts including nudity and public orgies — it has soared to international attention since then as a symbol of reinvigorated Kremlin repression of dissent and artistic expression.
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