Pussy Riot: a travesty of a mockery of a sham

So that’s that, then. Pussy Riot are going to prison for two years.

Despite an enormous outcry around the world, a court has convicted the women on a charge of “premeditated hooliganism performed by an organised group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility”.

And all for a short political protest in a cathedral in Moscow. No-one was hurt. No threats were made. The women left when security staff intervened. But still, the authorities felt moved to go after them, detain them for five months, put them through a high-profile trial and then pack them off to a labour colony.

Unbelievable.

The women should never have been arrested in the first place, they should never have been charged and this disgraceful affair should certainly never have gone to court. The trial itself was a deeply dubious business. To adapt one of Woody Allen’s best lines, “The trial was a travesty. It was a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”

The trial always looked suspiciously politically-motivated, an attempt to punish a bunch of “transgressors” who’d mocked and criticised the two bastions of Russian power - the Kremlin and the church.

The Pussy Riot “punk prayer” in Christ the Saviour Cathedral combined the scathing and scatological (“Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit! / Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit”) with the pointedly political. The Virgin Mary was urged to become a feminist and drive Vladimir Putin out. The punk prayer version of Russia is one where the Orthodox Church and a repressive state are shown to be in cahoots (“Black robes, golden epaulettes”).

Pussy Riot’s disdainful jibes at Putin and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church (Kirill I, Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyayev) seem to have prompted the judicial overreaction of a full-blown trial. Kirill himself has said the women were “doing the work of Satan” and called for them to be punished (he’s also on record praising Putin’s time in government as “a miracle of God”).

So, here we are. Three women heading to jail, for what? Their “crime” seems to have been no more than daring to voice their opposition to the status quo in Russia (doubtless their situationist flamboyance and general in-yer-face-ness has also incensed some powerful people in Russia). But having an opinion and expressing it is not a crime. Offending people is not a crime. Ipso facto - Pussy Riot are not criminals.

Well over 100,000 people have already supported Amnesty’s campaign for the release of Maria Alyokhin, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samoutsevitch, and the international campaign for the release of these prisoners of conscience is now surely set to grow stronger still.

A final thought. Instead of hounding these three women could the Russian authorities - prosecutors, police, politicians - not have found something better to do with their time? For instance, could they not instead have re-doubled their efforts to solve the murders of dozens of journalists and human rights activists in Russia in recent years?  Or how about scrapping laws that impose new restrictions on the activities of NGOs? Or maybe they could have set about facilitating (not blocking) Gay Pride events in Russia? Or perhaps they might have seen fit to allow “Article 31” protesters to freely demonstrate on the 31st of each month if they so wished?

In fact, almost anything would have been better than this very disturbing attempt to throttle free expression in modern Russia.

(Feel free to leave a message expressing your support for the three women via this Amnesty link).
 

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17 comments

Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit! / Holy shit, shit, Lord’s shit

That will get a person put in prison if they did it in a church in the United States or anywhere in Europe. Do that kind of thing in Turkey and a life of freedom would be so over.

If the SVR arranged similar protests in Washington DC the way the NATO countries finance 'the arts' in Russia, what would happen?

Lebanon may be on the way to another civil war, Syria is descending further into hell, and legations around the world are running out of fax paper, because of a girl punk group?

One of the tests for protected speech is whether it leads to very adverse circumstances, and I would say we were there.

Or, is this really about Syria? Because if it is, there are a lot of captives in that country, being held in dug-outs, caves and school basements. There are more important things to worry about.

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

"But having an opinion and expressing it is not a crime. Offending people is not a crime. Ipso facto - Pussy Riot are not criminals."


Your citation doesn't set any relevant precedents for crimes _in_ churches. I read the entire document and went through the citations line by line.

Did I miss something?

Gregory


1. Judgments of the Court
In the Handyside case the Court found that a ban imposed by the
British authorities under the Obscene Publications Act on a book called
Little Red School Book was in accordance with the exception laid down in
Article 10, §2 regarding protection of morals. In that judgment – as with
the subsequent Sunday Times judgment mentioned above – the Court
emphasised the importance of freedom expression in a democratic
society:
Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of
such a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the
development of every man. Subject to §2 of Article 10, it is applicable not
only to “information” or “ideas” that are favourably received or regarded as
inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend,
shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the
demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without with
there is no democratic society.
219

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

Hi G.
If a person in the USA or "Europe" was facing jail for saying "Holy shit" in a church then I think Amnesty would - quite rightly - take up their case.
As it happens, I don't think it would occur. Freedom of speech is widely defended in these countries - and many others in the world. While it is recognised in international law that there can be limitations on free expression, these are generally kept to a minimum and infringements are not, when they occur, punished with the severity that has been so evident in the Pussy Riot case. You cite the Handyside case. This dates from 1971. The ECtHR ruling is from 1976. Standards evolve. I think it's unlikely that a similar ruling would now be handed down. Plus, here the person was given a fine - not two years behind bars. Quite a diference. Furthermore, Handyside was non-political, involving sex not the very political criticism of Putin and the Orthodox Russian Church's patriarch - a very different scenario, and one which would ordinarily mean that free speech of a political nature whould be tolerated.
The more relevant part of Handyside is surely the second part quoted:

Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of such a society, one of the basic conditions for its progress and for the development of every man ... it is applicable not only to "information" or "ideas" that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no "democratic society". This means, amongst other things, that every "formality", "condition", "restriction" or "penalty" imposed in this sphere must be proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.

Two years in jail for a 40-second political protest in a church is, I would contend, grossly disproportionate.
(BTW - why do you refer to "the USA and 'Europe'" as if Russia is not part of Europe? It is, at least, part of the European human rights framework: Council/Europe, ECHR etc).
I don't know what the "SVR" is but I understand you to be making a sweeping point about Nato countries funding art in Russia as a surrogate for political attack. I don't know whether this is credible but is it actually relevant to the Pussy Riot case anyway?
Finally, re Syria: are you saying human rights organisations should only work on one thing at a time?
N.

NiluccioStaff 5 years ago


The ECHR has not decided such a demonstration as protected speech, nor has any other court in the USA. I asked a paralegal (major law firm) to search the legal databases, nothing along the lines of the Pussy Riot demo, viewed as protected speech.


An interest in justice? Why didn't Amnesty ( or the US State Dept) help Amanda Knox? Italy has a collapsed system of justice with more judicial misconduct than the rest of Europe combined? Why should the USA care, about Pussy Riot?

I think many Russians want an NGO law, in part because of fears western foreign services are involved in rampant mischief and as you ask, some Russians do see the hand of MI6/CIA in relation to the Pussy Riot case.

SVR = Russian version of MI6/CIA

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago



Pussy Riot's supporters are destroying memorials to the Ukrainian genocide and Stalinist repression.

It is an election year for Obama, Do you think a Jewish memorial might be next?

So, the ECHR is not going to free pass a freedom of speech decision, the other actions are connected.

Gregory




To show solidarity with the Pussy Riot defendants, Inna Shevchenko, a member of the Ukrainian group Femen which often stages bare-breasted shock performances, destroyed the four-meter high wooden cross bearing the figure of Christ.

The cross, erected in 2005 on a hilltop looking down on the city centre, also served as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression and the famine of the 1930s. Two other activists used ropes to direct the fall of the cross.

Topless woman cuts down Kiev cross for Pussy Riot ‎
Times LIVE - 1 day ago
The cross, erected in 2005 on a hilltop looking down on the city centre, also served as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression and the ...
Pussy Riot Trial: Topless FEMEN Activist Chainsaws Memorial ...‎ Huffington Post
all 5556 news articles »

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

Of course this is not a freedom of speech issue. It is plainly wrong to walk into a Holy Place of worship and intimidate the parishoners - many of whom would have felt personally insulted if not violated by their obscene actions.

If they wanted to protest, they could have attempted to do so outside the Cathedral, and then it would have been about freedom of speech if they were in breach - the way any unbiased person would see it. They wanted more bang for their buck - or ruble to be precise - and so playing the game of Russian roulette with Putin, they now have evidently lost, and must suffer the consequences as stiff as it is.

As it stands, I don't see why I should support a bunch of immoral people with no respect for a Holy place of worship, nor the Law.

Moreover, these people and the ones whom support them are clearly against G_D - and that is the most deeply worrying thing about this entire event. That people against G_D are bringing such a host of figures into the spotlight, evidently as a sign of support.

On the up side, at least I now know what people and organisations really believe and think about such matters. So thanks; Prof. Dawkins, Mr. Salman Rushdie, Mr. Stephen Fry, Madam Madonna, Sir Paul McCartney and Amnesty - to name just a few I've observed so far.

Russia is a failed state, it got like that because the world would prefer to make heros of the those Russian billionaires who stole from its citizens to buy flash cars, yachts, homes, and football teams. They look up to them to this day, seeking their friendship and favour, seeking a dance with criminals when so many people in Russia have sufferred as a result of their criminal actions.

Where was the outrage when billions were being ripped out of Russia like cookies from a cookie jar? Did the world not wonder how this would affect ordinary people and those seeking to control things in the corridors of power in Russia?

Oh, and lest us remember that a hard labour sentence was also available for the Magistrate. 2 years hard labour, that is what we should be calling for with our collective support, I would petition.

May this Pussy Riot suffer for the crime they have committed in Mother Russia. And may people in support of their criminal actions examine why they are against the Law and G_D?

Cheers,
Daniel Moszkowicz

Daniel Moszkowicz 5 years ago

I am wondering if Amnesty knew in advance about Pussy Riot's decision to do the stunt. It wouldn't be the first time Amnesty targeted a senior cleric for public humiliation.

http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/amnesty-international-supports-anti-catholic-bigotry-during-gay-pride-belfa

What we can say is that as part of the Pussy Riot campaign, memorials to mass killings, the Bolshevik genocide in the Ukraine are being destroyed by Pussy riot's supporters.

The idea of it being a harmless stunt, is very from the case, the Pussy riot campaign is associated with criminality and destruction of public property.

Did Amnesty _ask_ Pussy Riot to do the stunt in the cathedral?

Gregory

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago



Did Amnesty or its affiliates plan the stunt at the cathedral or did your organization know about it in advance? This crisis issue was self-generated?

The Pussy Riot campaign, which has Amnesty to the forefront, is targeting war memorials, and ironically has just destroyed a monument to Soviet era genocide in the Ukraine.

The Pussy Riot thing now has no chance whatsoever of being favorably decided by the ECHR. So, the Free Speech claims are a fantasy, because legally, it is not going to be determined as protected speech.

Did Amnesty at one step removed or directly, help plan the stunt at the Cathedral, so your organization could have a global campaign hit?

Gregory



Femen, Ukrainian topless feminist activists, chainsaws a memorial ... ‎
God Discussion (blog) - 4 hours ago
The leader of the Ukrainian feminist activist group, called Femen, took a chainsaw to a memorial crucifix, and sawed it down in protest of Pussy ...
Pussy Riot Trial: Topless FEMEN Activist Chainsaws Memorial ...‎ Huffington Post
Ukrainians protest Pussy Riot trial in Kyiv‎ Kyiv Post
Ukraine activist cuts down cross in Russian female punk rock band ...‎ Chicago Tribune
RT - AFP
all 5950 news articles »

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

G.
No, of course Amnesty did not know about Pussy Riot's demonstration in the cathedral in advance. What makes you ask this?
Regarding the Ukrainian protest - Pussy Riot themselves are not of course responsible for what people around the world might do to support them. I'd urge people to stay within the law but certainly to show support.
Russia's increasing harshness toward dissent and protest is a the bigger picture here. Jailing three women for two years for a short political protest in a cathedral is part of a wider clampdown on protest in the country. The Article 31 campaigners, anti-Putin camapigners, gay rights campaigners - all these groups are finding it almost impossible to gather anywhere in public in Russia without being arrested. The - quite ludicrous - 100-year ban on gay pride marches in Moscow is just the latest example of this.
Ultimately the Punk Prayer protest was very much about freedom of expression and I think if the case comes before the European Court of Human Rights the court will find in the women's favour.
D.
Amnesty and others have made it clear that they accept that the cathedral protest will have caused offfence. Indeed, as you know, the women themselves apologised for this during their trial. The point, though, is that the punishment is wholly disproportionate. Two years in jail for causing offence?
N.


NiluccioStaff 5 years ago

Amnesty have failed to even acknowledge it was a crime, that is the important distinction.

A crime is not protected speech. Such actions in churches are a crime right across Europe. Amnesty without being able to cite a single example of case law to the contrary is pretending otherwise. Amnesty should rely on the ECHR instead of trying to decriminalize hate crime or hooliganism via the back door.

It was a hate crime conviction and other hate crime unquestionably spread across Europe as a direct result. The ECHR are entitled to take into account very serious events in other locations so the destruction and targeting of genocide and war memorials is relevant, and perfectly admissible.

The French have arrested protesters for wearing masks, that's not going to get very far with an appeal to the ECHR, because such bans and arrests are legal. The same could happen elsewhere. Wearing balaclavas on protests often results in arrests and proceedings. There is nothing unusual about it.

Gregory

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/19/pussy-riot-protesters-arrested-marseille

Pussy Riot protesters arrested in Marseille
French police detain Pussy Riot protesters for wearing balaclavas amid crackdown on face-coverings

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago



Arresting protesters for wearing masks is legal. The problem with the Amnesty campaign, is that it is without legal basis. It is legal to arrest protesters in churches, and for wearing masks.

Such arrests are not suppressing free speech. The solution is not to wear a mask, and don't do it in a church.

Gregory

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/17/pussy-riot-protest-new-york_n_1798862.html?utm_hp_ref=new-york


Following the anger that quickly ensued after a Russian judge found punk band Pussy Riot guilty on hooliganism charges on Friday, New York City activists staged their support for the three female members of the band.

Six protestors were reportedly arrested for blocking traffic and wearing maks during the show of support.


Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

Amnesty's letter to the Russian prosecutor rambles on about Article 19, freedom of speech, the UN Declaration, but fails to mention Article 18 which is about freedom to go to church without interference! It is cherry-picking. Protected speech is decided by the courts, not by chainsawing a genocide memorial in Kiev, or wearing balaclavas in front of the GPO in Dublin. Have Pussy Riot told the vandals in Kiev 'not in our name'? Because a genocide memorial was destroyed in their name. NGOs such as your own were calling for widespread protests!

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

It was a memorial to real repression. Orthodox churches are being targeted across Europe. Is your organization looking upon itself as being partially in charge of the Pussy Riot campaign? If so, somebody should call a halt to the hate crime being perpetrated on behalf of Pussy Riot.

G.


Kiev, August 20, Interfax - The cross that activists from the movement FEMEN sawed down in central Kiev turned out to be Catholic, not Orthodox, the Ukrainian public organization Orthodox Choice told Interfax-Religion.

"This cross was put by Transcarpathian uniates in memory of the people martyred by ChK and NKVD in the 1920s and the 1930s without any authorization in 2004," the source said.

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

This is hilarious

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/20/pussy-riot-protestors-germany-cologne-cathedral_n_1813323.html?utm_hp_ref=world

'A police spokesperson said the group was shouting "wild" slogans and holding a banner, according to a Huffington Post translation of an article in Welt Online. Spiegel Online reports that a woman in the group was 20 years old and the men were 23 years old and 35 years old.

According to The Local, they "have been charged with breaching the peace and disturbing a religious service." '

Free the Cologne three! Merkel is a tyrant!

Erica Blair 5 years ago

Amnesty is being linked to the hooliganism @ Cologne, if it comes out in court it will not do their reputation (such as it is) much good.

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago

For those who a foolish enough to think PR are feminists

http://radicalhub.com/2012/08/20/pussy-riot-whose-freedom-whose-riot/#comment-9317

Erica Blair 5 years ago

The feminist credentials of VOINA are non-existent. The UK has passed laws banning extreme pornography, and that would certainly include sex films with animals.

Gregory Carlin 5 years ago