Out of Sight, Out of Mind? Pussy Riot, the Punk Prayer, and Putin’s Prison Colonies

Recently on CTV News, Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov analyzed the current situation for the remaining imprisoned Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

Grekov’s appearance followed the announcement that the two band members will be serving the remainder of their 2-year sentences in remote corrective labor colonies in Mordovia and Perm—lots of sewing or basket weaving awaits the women there, along with bunk beds housing 30-50 women in one room. Far removed from their families and at the mercy of prison administrators, Grekov predicted that their ordeal will be a psychological nightmare filled with hostility from fellow inmates, though the international attention generated by the case will continue to push the Russian government to ensure their safety and avoid further scandals.

While the recent release of the third arrested band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, offered a glimpse of hope to the women’s supporters, the appellate court denied the defense’s crucial motion for independent expert testimony on the punk prayer performed in February. The court’s decision leaves Tolokonnikova & Alyokhina’s defense team with few options to seek justice in the case. While their lawyers are working on a motion to delay the prison terms until the young women’s children reach the age of fourteen, Yekaterina Samutsevich’s legal rep has already prepared a lawsuit against the Russian Federation at the European Court of Human Rights, pointing out that “even a suspended sentence given to Ms. Samutsevich for expressing her opinion, is illegitimate and breaches Article 10 of the European Convention, which guarantees freedom of speech.”

Grekov summed up the basic problem with the Pussy Riot case: “It follows the same pattern of abuse that the Russian authorities are engaged in when they use hate crime statutes to silence dissent.”

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Published on October 23, 2012

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