For Immediate Release: August 17, 2012
New York City – Three members of Pussy Riot, the Russian punk band accused of “hooliganism” for staging a protest inside Moscow’s main cathedral, were convicted this morning and sentenced to two years each in prison. During the high-profile trial, Pussy Riot received unprecedented worldwide support from political dissidents, musicians, and human rights activists. In reaction to the sentence, Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov has issued the following statement:
“Today’s verdict is shameful, but unfortunately, not out of line with Russia’s crackdown on political dissent. Russia’s judicial system has demonstrated its flaws by pursuing this trial in the first place. The verdict is yet another example of the misuse of extremism laws, which were originally intended to prosecute perpetrators of violent hate crimes but are now increasingly being used to target journalists, religious believers, and artists.
“Russia made another bad choice that should have ramifications for the Kremlin’s pursuit of international prestige. This case will be remembered for the brutal assault on the separation of church and state principle enshrined in Russia’s constitution, the victory of legal nihilism, and the absurd applications of extremism and incitement statutes. The U.S. government must send a firm signal that a country that persecutes dissent and violates basic rule of law principles cannot be a trusted partner in the international community.”