Police look for other Pussy Riot members


Lawyers for the three convicted members of the Russian feminist performance-art group Pussy Riot say the women have ruled out asking President Vladimir Putin for a pardon following their sentencing to two years in prison.Lawyer Nikolai Polozov was quoted by the AFP news agency as saying: "Let them go to hell with their pardon."

Polozov said lawyers are, however, still planning to appeal the verdict to Russia’s supreme and constitutional courts, as well as the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

The August 17 court ruling found the women -- Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for their anti-Putin performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February.

Polozov said lawyers are waiting to receive an official copy of the court decision before launching the appeals.

Russian police said on August 20 that they were continuing to search for other members of Pussy Riot who were also present at the February performance.

Police did not say how many people they were looking for, nor whether any faced possible arrest or charges over their role in the February protest.

International reaction to the verdict has been quick and overwhelmingly negative, with performers such as Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sting, Moby, and many others voicing their support for the Pussy Riot members.

Inside Russia, the verdict has also sparked actions in support of Pussy Riot.

Reports from northwest Russia said graffiti reading "Freedom for Pussy Riot" was painted on a cathedral in the city of Velkiye Luki.

In the city of Pskov, "Down with church obscurantism!" and "Respect for Pussy Riot" was inscribed in letters 15-meters high on the 13th-century John the Baptist Monastery.  

The graffiti was reportedly quickly painted over by authorities.

In another incident, Pussy Riot supporters in Moscow were involved in an altercation when they entered a café wearing shirts that said "Mother Mary expel Putin" -- a reference to Pussy Riot’s "punk prayer" that led to the prosecution of the women.

Police arrived to restore order after a group of young people called authorities to say the shirts offended them and incited inter-faith hatred.

Russian opposition activists have condemned the trial as part of a clampdown against a protest movement.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied on August 20 that authorities had put pressure on the court and said there was no need for "hysterics" in the case.

"There is the possibility of appealing the verdict and, as I understand, the young women’s lawyers are going to do that, " he said. "So let’s not draw any hasty conclusions or, least of all, start any hysteria about it."

Lavrov’s remarks during a visit to Helsinki were the first by a member of the Russian government since the sentences were issued on August 17.

The United States, the European Union, and several nations have called the two-year jail sentences "disproportionate" and urged Russian authorities to review the case.

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