Monday, August 20, 2012

The Guardian: Pussy Riot trial gives Russia 'the image of a medieval dictatorship'... "It creates an image of a neanderthal country which can imprison young people for indulging in silly pranks"

Pussy Riot trial gives Russia 'the image of a medieval dictatorship'

Even some of Putin's supporters are aghast at the penal term handed out to the feminist punks. Amid a global storm of protest, signs have emerged that they might be released early – but a deep national rift remains

Demonstrators at the Russian embassy in London.
Demonstrators at the Russian embassy in London. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
A storm of criticism broke in Russia following the harsh two-year prison sentences given to three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot for protesting against the government in a Moscow cathedral. Those openly critical of the jail terms included some who are close to Vladimir Putin and others with strong links to the church, increasing pressure on the authorities to treat the trio more leniently.
Three members of the punk collective – Maria Alyokhina, 24, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 – were sentenced to serve two years in a penal colony on Friday after being found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred". A Moscow judge rejected the defence's argument that the band's performance of an anti-Putin "punk prayer" was a form of political protest and ruled that it was motivated by hatred for Russian Orthodoxy.
Alexey Kudrin, a former finance minister who remains a close ally of Putin, said: "The verdict in the case against the Pussy Riot punk band isn't only a fact in the lives of three young women; it is also yet another blow to the justice system and, above all, Russian citizens' belief in it."
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, another member of the country's minority liberal elite, also attacked the verdict, calling it a "strategic error that terribly damages the authority of the justice system". He voiced the widespread belief that the court case was politically orchestrated: "We don't know who took the final decision – the Kremlin? The patriarch? Probably not the court itself."
Opposition activists have accused Putin of orchestrating the campaign against Pussy Riot. The trio were arrested after a brief performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour of a song calling for the Virgin Mary to "chase Putin out". The band formed in response to Putin's decision to return to the presidency, and have gone from being a radical fringe group to becoming the figureheads of a protest movement numbering tens of thousands.
The case against Pussy Riot was widely seen as serving as a warning to other protesters, as well as a means of appealing to Putin's deeply conservative base. A poll released on Friday by the Levada Centre, an independent pollster, found that 44% of Russians believed the case against the band was conducted in a just manner. Most of those polled also believed the case was initiated by groups linked to the Russian Orthodox church.
In a sign that the women might be released early in a bid to ease tensions and boost Russia's international image, the church released a statement late on Friday calling on the authorities to show mercy. "Without putting the correctness of the court's decision into any doubt, we call on the state authorities to show mercy to the convicts, within the framework of the law, in the hope that they will refrain from repeating blasphemous actions," the statement said.
Andrei Isayev, a high-ranking member of the ruling United Russia party, also spoke out against the verdict. "The verdict is harsh. The president still might take a decision. But nonetheless this verdict which, probably, will be taken negatively by some of our liberal intelligentsia, will be taken as just by a significant number of people."
Lawyers for the Pussy Riot trio have said they will appeal. A request for a pardon would require an admission of guilt, which the women have said they will not give.
Even some of Putin's loudest supporters called the verdict a mistake. Tina Kandelaki, a prominent media personality and Putin cheerleader, called the verdict and sentence "information suicide" and "wrong at its very roots".
"For some reason, from the very beginning, Putin's advisers gave the president a new 'Khodorkovsky'," she said, referring to jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whose arrest in 2003 signalled Putin's willingness to jail political critics, say critics.
"The millions of dollars of taxpayer money spent in the last few years on fixing the image of our country abroad have been thrown to the wind," she said. "Our image in the eyes of the world is getting closer to a medieval dictatorship, although in reality we are not that."
The case has deepened the rift that emerged in Russian society following the unexpected appearance of a mass protest movement against Putin's return to the presidency. Some in the opposition movement gave dire predictions of what lay ahead.
Referring to the performance art collective Voina ("War"), from which Pussy Riot emerged, opposition Duma deputy Dmitry Gudkov tweeted after the verdict: "So, there was the art group War, and now there will be real war. Idiots."
Condemnation also came from western capitals and human rights groups. The US state department said it was concerned by the ruling and urged the Kremlin to review the case. Former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind said the verdict had done "real damage" to Russia's image internationally. "It creates an image of a neanderthal country which can imprison young people for indulging in silly pranks. It is a huge own goal. Putin will have alienated a large amount of Russian youth in the process."
Amnesty International called the verdict a "travesty". "[It] shows that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle civil society," Michelle Ringuette, of Amnesty, said in a statement. "Each step in the case has been an affront to human rights."


Yulia Kalinina
In a comment article for Moskovsky Komsomolets, a popular tabloid
"In the middle ages, they would have been burned at the stake for 'demonism'… Part of the punishment is very similar to the middle ages [when] people were tried for something they didn't do. Today, they're tried in the same way… They were tried 'for politics'. For 'Virgin Mary, chase Putin out'."

Financial daily
"Shouts were heard in the courtroom and outside immediately after the sentence was announced: "Shame!" "Inquisition!" "Fascists!" and "Russia without Putin!" The police began to arrest those who shouted."

Marat Guelman
Former Kremlin spin doctor
"No matter how much we didn't like what they did, what the authorities started to do with them afterwards is a much, much more aggressive performance… If you've insulted somebody, you must understand that someone might not agree with you.
"I must have the right to say openly: there is no God, that the Gospel is just a tale. I must know that I won't go to jail for that. What happened today is a step towards a fundamentalist government."

Komsomolskaya Pravda
Popular tabloid newspaper
"Who could imagine even half a year ago that the main news in the political life of a huge country would be the verdict against three idiots, tried under the everyday law of hooliganism. Liberal social activists, supporters of non-traditional sexual orientations, the creative intelligentsia and many others threw themselves into supporting the scandalous group Pussy Riot."

Comments - 590 comments:

18 August 2012 6:17PM
As some commentators have noted, the Pussy Riot verdict is hardly "Stalinist" in scope (Stalin would have had the young ladies killed), but rather Brezhnevian (a show trial, 2 years in a gulag/work camp, a cautionary tale for all).
In North America and Europe, the three band members would have received a fine of several hundred pounds/dollars/euros plus x hours of required community service. The ladies (I believe at least one of them has children at home) would be back in their living rooms by 6 PM. But a work camp? A "re-education colony" for women? No, never, not in the US, Canada or Europe. With this verdict, Russia's international reputation is set back by at least 30 years.

Reactions to the Pussy Riot Verdict - WSJ

via Pussy Riot - Google News on 8/19/12 (blog)

Pussy Riot trial gives Russia 'the image of a medieval dictatorship'
The Guardian
The case against Pussy Riot was widely seen as serving as a warning to other protesters, as well as a means of appealing to Putin's deeply conservative base. A poll released on Friday by the Levada Centre, an independent pollster, found that 44% of ...
Russian clerics forgive Pussy Riot for Putin rantSan Jose Mercury News
What Pussy Riot teaches usCNN (blog)
Russian top clerics forgive Pussy Riot, ask for (blog)
Washington Post -Huffington Post (blog)
all 5,961 news articles »
  • August 17, 2012, 3:57 PM CET

  • Reaction to the Pussy Riot Verdict

    A collection of reaction to the verdict for Russian punk band Pussy Riot, whose members were found guilty and sentenced to two years in jail for an anti-Putin performance at Russia’s main Orthodox cathedral. We’ll be updating with the latest reaction.
    The European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that she was “deeply disappointed” with the verdict. “This sentence is disproportionate. … [I]t puts a serious question mark over Russia’s respect for international obligations of fair, transparent, and independent legal process,” she said. “I expect that this sentence will be reviewed and reversed in line with Russia’s international commitments.”
    The U.S. embassy in Russia said on its Twitter feed that the verdict “looks disproportionate.”
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sentence was “excessively harsh” and “not compatible with the European values of the rule of law and democracy to which Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, has committed itself.”
    “The verdict handed down today appears particularly disproportionate, considering the minor acts they are accused of,” said Vincent Floreani, France’s foreign ministry spokesman. “The process is not over, since appeals in Russia and in Strasbourg (to the European Court of Human Rights) have not been exhausted.”
    The court’s interpretation of the law in Pussy Riot’s case may create a dangerous precedent, the head of the presidential human rights council, Mikhail Fedotov, told Interfax. He said he condemns the women’s actions, but noted that he is prepared to support their appeal, should there be one. “What they have done has some blatant amorality in it and petty hooliganism but there is no criminal offense in it,” he said.
    Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt says on Twitter: “Even the Human Rights Commissioner of Russia deems the prison sentence for Pussy Riot unfair and calls for it to be appealed. Easy to agree.”
    Vladimir Zhiyanov, the father of band member Maria Alyokhina said, “What they did is not right, but what the court did is much, much worse. It’s complete lawlessness. It’s time to kick Putin out of the G8. The world’s reaction may force Putin to pardon him, to let them out.”