Stop The Presses! (NEW)

Russian Court Upholds Punk Band Pussy Riot’s Prison Conviction

Stop The Presses!

by Jon Wiederhorn

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Protestors call for Pussy Riot's release (Photo: Dan Kitwood)

Just a few days after Memorial Day, it’s worth reiterating that living in the U.S. entitles residents to freedoms that are widely taken for granted. All you have to do is look at the Kafka-esque scenario in which the Russian band Pussy Riot is ensnared.

On May 29, the highest court in Moscow rejected an appeal by the group to be released from prison for staging an impromptu protest against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Main Cathedral in 2012. Last August, three of the band's members were sentenced to two years in prison colonies for being punk rock – or, in the words of the prosecution, engaging in "premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility."

Russian news agencies have reported that Moscow City Court chair Olga Yegorova upheld the musician’s convictions and refutes their claims that their actions were politically motivated. Pussy Riot’s attorney Irina Khrunova told the Associated Press that she would appeal the case to Russia's Supreme Court.

In the meantime, band members Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were returned to jail. The third member that was arrested, guitarist Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on probation on October 10, 2012 after he attorney argued that she didn't actually participate in the protest because she was stopped by cathedral guards before she was able to take her guitar out of its case.

Recently, Alekhina began a hunger strike to protest what she refers to as an official harassment campaign against her in prison. Earlier this week, on the seventh day of her hunger strike, she was hospitalized for low blood pressure. Since she was originally imprisoned, Alekhina’s claims that she was being victimized have not been warmly received by prison officials.

Earlier this year she was sentenced to five months in solitary confinement after she claimed she was intentionally put in a cell with a convicted murderer. Her attorney claims that guards have turned a blind eye to prisoners that have physically threatened Alekhina. Her lawyer also says officials wrote false psychiatric evaluations of her condition.

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