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Bandmate: Russia could release jailed Pussy Riot members early

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 9:35 EDT
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Freed Pussy Riot punk Yekaterina Samutsevich speaks during an interview with Agence France-Presse in Moscow, on February 25, 2013. (AFP)
 
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Freed Pussy Riot punk Yekaterina Samutsevich vowed to pursue every legal route to free her jailed bandmates, saying there was still a chance the Russian authorities could free the two women early.

“The main task is to get Nadya and Masha out,” Samutsevich told AFP in an interview, using the short names of bandmates Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

“I think if we manage to carry out a legal defence at a high level, there is a chance that they’ll come out earlier, earlier than two years,” Samutsevich said a year after the band yelled out a political protest song critical of President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

The two women are serving two-year sentences for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in harsh prison camps in the western regions of Perm and Mordovia.

The case remains a thorn in the side of Putin, Samutsevich said, speculating that political pressure could build up to free the women ahead of next year’s much-vaunted Winter Olympics in Russia’s southern city of Sochi.

“Pussy Riot clearly doesn’t improve the situation for Putin,” she said.

“Putin is still being asked the same uncomfortable questions about the jailed participants of Pussy Riot and I think he will continue to be asked them, especially as the Sochi Olympics are ahead, so I don’t know how the state authorities will behave, what they’ll do,” she said.

A slight woman who is quietly spoken but forthright, Samutsevich took a call from her lawyer as she spoke, and said that she continued to spend most of her time dealing with the legal case.

She managed on appeal to have her sentence changed to a suspended one, arguing that she was grabbed so quickly that she did not take part in the performance.

Samutsevich lives under restrictions such as being unable to leave Russia and having to ask permission to leave Moscow.

She and two other women who performed in the church but were never arrested have also noticed they are being tailed blatantly, she said.

“Once I came out of the metro and stopped and I saw that a man had also stopped… I saw him openly filming me on his cell phone. I walked on and he followed me, I could see that he was assigned to follow me.”

She continued: “One of the women who was in the church was followed to the bus stop and a man filmed her quite openly on his cell phone, he even managed to film her on a video camera,” she said.

“I don’t know why they do it so openly: evidently there is an element of intimidation,” she said, giggling.

Visiting the imprisoned women is out of the question, Samutsevich said, and the authorities have foiled her attempts to place phone calls under an assumed name.

“I can contact them by writing, the censors let me, they don’t limit me so far.”

Serving under strict regimes that include compulsory labour, both women have struggled.

Alyokhina asked to transfer to an isolation cell after receiving threats from inmates. On Tuesday, her isolation was extended by 90 days, which Samutsevich called the best option for her.

“The people who threatened her are still there, they haven’t gone anywhere.”

Tolokonnikova has had medical treatment for her recurrent headaches although she has not reported any threats.

“It’s a tough colony, there could be repeat offenders around her as well… I think it’s just as hard for her as it is for Masha.”

A court refused to let Alyokhina postpone her sentence until her son is a teenager. She is now appealing. Tolokonnikova has filed a similar request over her daughter.

Both will also apply for parole, although Alyokhina has received several reprimands during her internment that will be taken into account.

In another legal crackdown, Pussy Riot’s videos of their performances have been ruled extremist and could be blocked to Russian Internet users shortly.

Pussy Riot’s unsanctioned protests are still relevant, Samutsevich argued, voicing the hope that others would take up the cause while the group is tangled in legal woes.

“It’s hard for us to go on. We did this so that other people would take it up and start doing something themselves.”

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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