Topic: Punk Group Pussy Riot Case
MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti)
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The criminal case against three members of the Russian female punk band Pussy Riot is “resonant” because it has to do with personal rights and freedoms, but it is up to a court to decide on their fate, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said.
His first public comments on the case, in which the three young women face up to seven years in jail for performing a controversial “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main cathedral in February, came in an interview with the Times newspaper published on Monday.
Public reaction to the case – which has sparked heated public debates in Russia and abroad – should be “calm” as no verdict has yet been made, Medvedev told the Times on July 28, two days before the beginning of public court hearings into the case on Monday.
“There are certainly different positions. In some countries responsibility for such actions would be much stricter, not to say that in some political conditions such actions in a church – regardless of confession – could have very gloomy consequences for those responsible,” Medvedev said.
“This case is resonant because it has to do with our understanding of personal rights and freedoms. But I believe there will always be differences in perceiving what is allowed and what is not allowed from the moral point of view and where is the line between acts of morality and actions that should be criminally prosecuted,” he added.
The court should decide whether the materials collected by investigators constitute “corpus delicti” (body of crime) or not, he said.
“But that some of those young women are now in jail and that this is already quite a serious test for them and their families – I certainly understand this,” he added.
Court hearings into the case of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, began earlier on Monday, almost five months after they were arrested and put in pre-trial custody on criminal charges of hooliganism.
They were detained after four masked members of Pussy Riot performed a song in Moscow’s landmark Cathedral of Christ the Savior in late February against what they said was church support for Vladimir Putin’s presidential election campaign.
The song, entitled “Holy S**t,” featured the lyrics “Virgin Mary, drive Putin out!” and came amid unprecedented demonstrations against the twelve-year rule of the former KGB officer. The suspects admit being part of the Pussy Riot group, but say they did not take part in the cathedral protest. Putin called the protest “unpleasant.”
Their criminal prosecution has sparked heated debates in Russia between those who support strict punishment for what they believe was “desecration” of a holy Orthodox site, those who think the Pussy Riot members should be freed as they committed no crime, and others who believe the punishment should be limited to administrative fines.
The case has also triggered strong criticism from Russian and Western human rights groups. Amnesty International has declared the arrested women “prisoners of conscience.”
Prosecutors say the group “insulted in a sacrilegious manner the centuries-old foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church” and performed a “blasphemous” song in the cathedral.
On Monday, the group members called their “punk prayer” an “ethical mistake,” but pleaded not guilty to charges of hooliganism. They said they expected their political performance to be viewed as ironic.
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- TimRWhat would Dobrynin have done about "Pussy Riot"?08:07, 31/07/2012I am beginning to believe that much of this really is the fault of the Russian authorities. They need to stop and ask themselves how Anatoly Dobrynin would have handled the 'Pussy Riot' issue.
My inclination is to believe that he would have recognized, very early, the importance of taking the focus off of -what- they did, and placing it on -where- they did it, long before they were labeled "Prisoners of Conscience" by Amnesty International. They would have gotten their 90 days in jail, and this issue which is causing genuine political damage for Russia would now be over with.
I think Russia should just accept they lost this round. They were unprepared for the event itself, and even less prepared for the political consequences. The officials involved should be grateful they aren't getting a stern lecture from Dobrynin and sent off for a year of peeling potatoes in Siberia <g>. It is worth noting, as well, that the "Washington National Cathedral", our closest counterpart to the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, has it's own police force of 20 officers.
The best strategy for Russia now is to lose gracefully, and use the unfortunate events to -reinforce- their credibility and relationships with European and UN human rights organizations, demonstrating the lack of need for the Magnitsky act, while leaving U.S. rights entities currently pressuring Russia absolutely out in the cold.
By "Lose gracefully" I don't mean lose the case, but plea bargain it down to a lesser charge and release the defendants with time served, in addition to their public apology to the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and agreement that they are never to enter a church again without the express permission of member of the clergy. Then Russian authorities could make some gesture to the human rights community admitting emotions became inflamed. Putin doesn't need the apology - He is in government! Like our president, Barack Obama, this kind of abuse comes with his job.
Beyond this there is no reason to treat these women as heroines of free speech, which they are not - Or allow them to achieve the status of political martyrdom. There are undoubtedly Russians who would wish to discuss and debate the relationship between the church and the government in a calm, constructive, and adult manner. Pussy Riot certainly didn't do them any favors either.
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