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Pussy Riot team appeals ‘punk prayer’ jailing

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, August 27, 2012 15:07 EDT
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Pussy Riot via AFP
 
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Pussy Riot lawyers on Monday appealed the jailing of three of the Russian band members for their “punk prayer” call for Vladimir Putin’s ouster ahead of his election to a new presidential term.

The decision to contest this month’s controversial ruling came as news emerged that two other singers in the revolving-member group had fled Russia out of fear of being arrested by the police.

Defence attorney Violetta Volkova said that Pussy Riot’s appeal against the two-year imprisonment was filed with the Moscow City Court.

“All the papers are in order. The only question is whether we will need to file any additional material later,” Volkova told AFP.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — 22 and 24 respectively and both mothers of young children — and 30-year-old Yekaterina Samutsevich burst into Russia’s main cathedral wearing their trademark balaclavas and shouted out a few lines of their protest song on February 21.

A Moscow judge ruled that the performance displayed “clear disrespect toward society” and convicted them of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

The ruling was instantly condemned by the United States and major European powers as another example of freedoms coming under pressure with Putin in power.

The unusual case sparked a worldwide celebrity and pop star campaign for Pussy Riot’s freedom that has enlisted the likes of Bjork and Madonna as well as Paul McCartney and Sting.

But Moscow investigators responded to the global pressure by launching a hunt for two other members of the group who took part in the protest stunt but managed to avoid police detention in the subsequent months.

The group’s on-stage masks hide their identity and Pussy Riot’s lawyers said that the Moscow police admit they only know the wanted women’s identities by the nicknames they use in the band.

Tolokonnikova’s husband Pyotr Verzilov told AFP on Monday that two group members had now managed to leave Russia in order to avoid arrest.

But he refused to confirm that it was the two women wanted by the police or reveal any other details about where they had gone or when they might have left.

“The band has decided to keep this information to themselves as a security precaution,” Verzilov said.

An unofficial Twitter account used by Pussy Riot supporters claimed on Sunday that that the two members who left Russia were the ones wanted by the police.

Meanwhile, a publication run by France’s renowned writer Bernard-Henri Levy invited the two bandmates to come to Paris where “everything will be done to welcome them in the homeland of human rights”.

“If you are looking for a place where you will be sheltered, where you can reflect on your strategy as well as the defence of your imprisoned comrades, we will do everything in our power to make you feel welcome in Paris,” said the Regle du Jeu publication.

It also offered to help the duo obtain legal means to secure the release of their imprisoned bandmates.

“We can help you for example by filing an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights. And we can organise a collection in order to … meet your needs and ensure your security and your anonymity.”

It also suggested holding a Pussy Riot concert in Paris. “Come! We will take care of the rest,” said the magazine.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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