August 17, 2012

Feminist musicians sent to prison for 2 years

By Suzanne MacNevin

Three women of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot have been convicted of “hooliganism” today for their anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral. The band held a brief guerrilla performance, a "punk prayer" entreating the Virgin Mary to protect Russia from Vladimir Putin, who at the time was on the verge of winning a new term as Russian president.

Judge Marina Syrova sentenced them to two years in prison, a year less than what the prosecution asked for. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, said they were protesting against close ties between Putin and the Russian Orthodox church and did not intend to offend believers.

The three musicians stood in silence in a glass courtroom cage as the judge read out the verdict. They lifted their cuffed hands in salute to acknowledge supporters after the sentencing and smiled to each other.

After the judge finished reading the sentence, which took three hours, many Russians in the court room shouted “Shame!”

Officially the three were charged with "hooliganism connected to religious hatred", but they have been very clear their goals had little to do with the church and more to do Vladimir Putin's iron grip on Russia's government - including the judicial system which has become puppets of the Putin regime.

The judge also said that the songs being performed were "blasphemous". The case has attracted international attention as an emblem of Russia’s intolerance of dissent.

The case is not alone either. Many other incidents have been happening in Russia and the government crackdown on free speech is becoming ever stronger. This case comes in the wake of several recently passed laws cracking down on opposition political parties, including one that raised the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstrations by 150 times from 2,000 rubles to 300,000 rubles. In dollars the fine used to be roughly $60 but is now about $9,000.

Another extreme measure now requires non-government organizations that both engage in vaguely defined political activity and receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.” That way anyone who defies the government can now be arrested for being a foreign spy and has already admitted on a government document to being a "foreign agent".

So yeah... Russia is going down the drain and freedom of speech is pretty much disappearing if you live there.

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