Pussy Riot: today's refusal of parole for Maria Alekhina is a further travesty of justice

‘It’s deeply shocking that Masha, a young mother, remains behind bars for a peaceful expression of her beliefs’ - Angelique Kidjo, one of 100 musicians supporting Pussy Riot

A Russian appeal court decision today to refuse parole to Maria Alekhina - one of the all-female Pussy Riot punk group jailed for performing a protest song in an Orthodox cathedral - is a further travesty of justice, Amnesty International said.

Earlier today the Regional Court in Perm upheld a previous decision to refuse parole to 24-year-old Alekhina. In January Ms Alekhina applied for early release so she could take care of her five-year-old son but her application was rejected on the grounds that this had already been taken into account when passing her initial two-year sentence last year.
 
On the eve of today’s appeal hearing over 100 internationally-renowned musicians - including Adele, Ke$ha, Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono, Radiohead, Patti Smith, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and U2 - signed a letter calling for the immediate release of Alekhina, as well as Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the other still-imprisoned member of Pussy Riot (see http://amn.st/12YbIxJ ).

Angelique Kidjo, one of the musicians who signed the letter requesting the women’s release, said today:

“It’s deeply shocking that Masha, a young mother, remains behind bars for a peaceful expression of her beliefs. Together with fellow musicians, artists, Amnesty members and thousands of people from all over the world, we will continue to demand a release from this outrageously unjust imprisonment. Free Pussy Riot!” 

In just two days since the musicians’ letter was issued, over 15,000 have signed a petition calling on the Prosecutor General to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Alekhina and Tolokonnikova, with the number of signatories still growing.  

Meanwhile, the parole appeal of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will be heard this Friday by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia, where she is serving her sentence.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director Denis Krivosheev said:

“This decision is a further confirmation that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression.

“Today’s court decision is meant to intimidate further free speech. It may be presented as principled but it reveals a trend of bullying critics in spite of the country’s obligations to defend and promote human rights.

“Maria Alekhina and the other two punk singers shouldn't have been arrested in the first place. They were deprived of their freedom solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs and Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience.

“The Russian authorities must release Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova immediately and unconditionally and the sentences against them and Ekaterina Samutsevich should be overturned.”

Background:
Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich, three of Pussy Riot’s members, were charged with “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” after they mimed to a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. All three were subsequently sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in a penal colony but Samutsevich was later given a suspended sentence on appeal.
 

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