Thursday, December 12, 2013

Russia's Supreme Court Orders Review of Pussy Riot Verdicts

ERIC R DANTON/RollingStone

Russia's Supreme Court has ordered a formal review of guilty sentences for two members of Pussy Riot, citing errors by the trial court that convicted them in August 2012 of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in connection with a "punk-prayer" protest in Moscow's main cathedral earlier that year.

The lower court didn't prove that Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were motivated by hatred, overlooked the fact that neither woman had previous convictions and failed to take into account the fact that both women are the mothers of young children, the Supreme Court wrote in a report published on its website. The high court's order was first mentioned by The Hollywood Reporter.

Alyokhina, 25, and Tolokonnikova, 24, are serving two-year sentences in Russian penal colonies for their part in the February 2012 protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin. A third member of Pussy Riot, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was also convicted, then freed on appeal in October 2012. Their case has attracted international attention, with musicians including Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Madonna asking for leniency.

Earlier this year, Tolokonnikova started a hunger strike in protest of what she described as "slave-labor" conditions in her penal colony. She also said she had received a death threat from a prison official. Health complications prompted her to suspend the hunger strike, and after dropping out of sight for several weeks, she turned up at a tuberculosis hospital in Siberia after demanding a transfer.

She and Alyokhina have only a few months remaining on their sentences, and it's unclear how long a judicial review of their convictions would take.

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