Pussy Riot: Adele, Ke$ha, Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Radiohead, Patti Smith and U2 among 100 musicians in new call for release

Musicians’ call comes ahead of parole hearings for the two imprisoned women

More than 100 internationally-renowned musicians have joined a worldwide call for the release of the two jailed members of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot ahead of their parole appeal hearings this week. 

The full list of artists is: Bryan Adams, Adele, Alt-J, Laurie Anderson, Animal Collective, Anti-Flag, Arcade Fire, Arch Enemy, Archive, Joan Armatrading, Joan Baez, Beardyman, Jeff Beck, Yasiin Bey, björk, Rubén Blades, Billy Bragg, Jackson Browne, Peter Buck, Tracy Chapman, Chase & Status, The Chemical Brothers, Neneh Cherry, The Clash, CocoRosie, Coldplay, Lily Rose Cooper, Dido, Django Django, Melissa Etheridge, Siobhan Fahey, Paloma Faith, First Aid Kit, Franz Ferdinand, Foster the People, Florence & The Machine, fun., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Kim Gordon, Debbie Harry, PJ Harvey, Don Henley, The Hidden Cameras, Niall Horan, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Ke$ha, Angelique Kidjo, The Knife, Mark Knopfler, Talib Kweli, Tom Lehrer, Sean Lennon, Annie Lennox, Lykke Li, Sir Paul McCartney, Romy Madley-Croft, Madonna, Zayn Malik, Stephen Malkmus, Marina & The Diamonds, Johnny Marr, Massive Attack, Mike Mills, Moby, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello, Alanis Morissette, James Morrison, Graham Nash, Kate Nash, Youssou N'Dour, Karen O, Yoko Ono, Clock Opera, Ozzy Osbourne, Liam Payne, Peaches, Joe Perry, Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Portishead, Portugal. The Man, Cat Power, Radiohead, Bonnie Raitt, Rise Against, Patti Scialfa, Scissor Sisters, Paul Simon, Sleigh Bells, Patti Smith, Esperanza Spalding, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Stewart, Sting, Michael Stipe, Harry Styles, Neil Tennant, Louis Tomlinson, Pete Townshend, K T Tunstall, U2, Eddie Vedder, Florence Welch.

In an open letter, coordinated by Amnesty International as part of its ongoing campaign to free 25-year-old Maria Alekhina and 23-year old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the artists pledge their support and state that the impact of Pussy Riot’s “shockingly unjust trial and imprisonment has spread far and wide, especially among your fellow artists, musicians and citizens around the world.”

The letter continues: “While understanding the sensitivities of protesting in a place of worship, we ask that the Russian authorities review these harsh sentences, so that you may return to your children, your families and your lives.” (See the full text of the letter below).

One of the signatories to the letter, Yoko Ono, says:

“I thank Pussy Riot for standing firmly in their belief for Freedom of Expression, and making all women of the world proud to be women.”

Lucy Macnamara, Communications Manager for Art for Amnesty, said:

“The Pussy Riot case has shocked musicians all over the world and we’ve had an incredible response to the call to sign this letter.

“Several musicians have told me that if you can’t sing a protest song without fear of arrest then something is badly wrong.

“Let’s hope the Russian authorities finally see sense and release Maria and Nadezhda.”

The parole hearings - Wednesday 24 July for Maria Alekhina, Friday 26 July for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - come almost a year after the start of the heavily-publicised trial of Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and a third group member, Ekaterina Samutsevich. The three were charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. They were convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with Amnesty describing the outcome “a bitter blow for freedom of expression” in Russia. Samutsevich was later released on probation, but appeals by Alekhina and Tolokonnikova have been turned down. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova will both have their parole appeals heard by the regional higher courts this week.

Amnesty supporters are following up the musicians’ letter with an online campaign ahead of the parole appeal hearings, with campaigners sharing an online appeal to Russia’s Prosecutor General via the hashtag “#FreePussyRiot”.

The full letter

Dear Masha and Nadia,

As the one-year anniversary of your trial approaches, we are writing to assure you that, around the world, people are both still thinking of you and working for your release. Although you were the most visible of the protesters, we know that there were many other young people who have suffered in the protests, about whom we are also very concerned. But, in many ways, through your imprisonment, you have come to represent them.

Many artists voiced their concern when these charges were first brought against you, we had every hope that the authorities, in dealing with you, would show some understanding, a sense of proportion, even some of the wonderful Russian sense of humour, but none of the above were forthcoming.

The impact of your shockingly unjust trial and imprisonment has spread far and wide. Especially among your fellow artists, musicians and citizens around the world, including the many parents who feel your anguish at being separated from your children. While understanding the sensitivities of protesting in a place of worship, we ask that the Russian authorities review these harsh sentences, so that you may return to your children, your families and your lives.

The right to freedom of expression and dissent is a legitimate one and essential in any kind of democracy.

You have been accused of what could be described as ‘a victimless’ crime, but in our opinion, in a just society, there can be no crime where there is no identifiable ‘victim’. 
  
Your strength, bravery and fearlessness are an inspiration to us all.

Yours in solidarity,

Bryan Adams, Adele, Alt-J, Laurie Anderson, Animal Collective, Anti-Flag, Arcade Fire, Arch Enemy, Archive, Joan Armatrading, Joan Baez, Beardyman, Jeff Beck, Yasiin Bey, björk, Rubén Blades, Billy Bragg, Jackson Browne, Peter Buck, Tracy Chapman, Chase & Status, The Chemical Brothers, Neneh Cherry, The Clash, CocoRosie, Coldplay, Lily Rose Cooper, Dido, Django Django, Melissa Etheridge, Siobhan Fahey, Paloma Faith, First Aid Kit, Franz Ferdinand, Foster the People, Florence & The Machine, fun., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Kim Gordon, Debbie Harry, PJ Harvey, Don Henley, The Hidden Cameras, Niall Horan, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Talib Kweli, Ke$ha, Angelique Kidjo, The Knife, Mark Knopfler, Tom Lehrer, Sean Lennon, Annie Lennox, Lykke Li, Sir Paul McCartney, Romy Madley-Croft, Madonna, Zayn Malik, Stephen Malkmus, Marina & the Diamonds, Johnny Marr, Massive Attack, Mike Mills, Moby, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello, Alanis Morissette, James Morrison, Graham Nash, Kate Nash, Youssou N'Dour, Karen O, Yoko Ono, Clock Opera, Ozzy Osbourne, Liam Payne, Peaches, Joe Perry, Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Portishead, Portugal. The Man, Cat Power, Radiohead, Bonnie Raitt, Rise Against, Patti Scialfa, Scissor Sisters, Paul Simon, Sleigh Bells, Patti Smith, Esperanza Spalding, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Stewart, Sting, Michael Stipe, Harry Styles, Neil Tennant, Louis Tomlinson, Pete Townshend, K T Tunstall, U2, Eddie Vedder.

Background

Members of the Pussy Riot music collective filmed themselves miming a protest song about Vladimir Putin and Russian Orthodox Church officials in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow on 21 February 2012, with group members covering their faces with balaclavas. Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich were later arrested and charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred”, a crime that carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment in Russian law.

The three women were denied bail and were held in custody for four and half months until their trial. During this time Amnesty recognised the three as “prisoners of conscience”, saying they should not be facing criminal charges and calling for their immediate release.

The Pussy Riot protest was one of a number of protests against Vladimir Putin in the run-up to Russia’s presidential elections in March 2012. The Russian government has since introduced several new restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and association, including a law amending the Criminal Code to allow for up to three years’ imprisonment for “public actions aimed at insulting religious feelings”.

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