Pussy Riot Found Guilty and Sentenced to Two Years in Prison; Worldwide Protests Scheduled

Illustration for article titled Pussy Riot Found Guilty and Sentenced to Two Years in Prison; Worldwide Protests Scheduled

Three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of hooliganism Friday for performing a political protest song against Vladimir Putin on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. After the verdict was read, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 were made to stand in court during sentencing as Judge Marina Sirovaya droned on for two hours and a half hours, reading aloud the evidence against them, which includes how they "engaged in homosexual propaganda," were "motivated by religious enmity and hatred," behaved "provocatively," and that their clothing was not acceptable, making repeated references to their neon-colored tights and noting the shortness of their dresses. The three women smirked and occasionally laughed.


The band members—who have already served six months behind bars after being arrested in March 2012—faced up to seven years in prison. However, earlier this month, President Putin said that the women shouldn't be punished "too harshly" for their civil disobedience. They were sentenced to the minimum two years in prison.

In what seemed like an attempt to make the reading of the sentencing torturous, the entire court had to stand in place as Judge Sirovaya monotonously read a recap of the case, starting with the evidence list, then a very long summary of witness testimonies, incredibly detailed descriptions of the convicted women's looks (height 165 cm, round face, etc.) and even a thorough description of the Christ the Savior Cathedral, its icons and its altars. A filibuster of this type might go beyond typical court procedure.

The Wall Street Journal noted that "Orthodox believers often stand for long periods at religious services," implying that the court was adding some sort of passive aggressive punishment for the women's disrespect of the church. (The protest for which the women were arrested was captured in the video to the left.)

Meanwhile, activists have marked August 17 as Pussy Riot Global Day, with protests against the verdict scheduled in over 60 cities, worldwide. Supporters of the women are wearing the band's signature colorful ski masks in solidarity, with some even placing the masks on statues throughout Moscow. Russian police arrested several pro-Pussy Riot supporters today—including world chess champ Garry Kasparov— after hundreds of protestors began shouting "Russia without Putin!" outside the courthouse when the verdict was read.

And Alicia Silverstone has been doing her part, as well. In a letter to Putin, the vegan actress begged the Russian president for "assurance" that Maria Alyokhina will have access to vegan food in prison. "I'm sure you can agree that everyone has the right to show compassion and refrain from hurting animals by being vegan," Silverstone wrote, perhaps missing the point that the women were on trial to begin with because of the country's lack of basic rights for its citizens.


Even with the support celebrities like Silverstone, Madonna, Kathleen Hanna, and Chloe Sevigny, a global protest effort, and the backing of Amnesty International, it isn't likely that the members of Pussy Riot will benefit from any of it. According to a poll, only 7% of women in Russia are feminists, and 45% of men in Russia "detest" feminists. Only 3% like them. To add to the dilemma, two of the women Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, have very young children from whom they've already been separated.


But that doesn't seem to deter them. In her statement made in court Alyokhina said:

I am extremely angered by the phrase ‘so-called' which the State Prosecutor uses to refer to contemporary art. I would like to draw attention to the fact that during the trial of Brodsky exactly the same phrase was used. His poems were referred to as ‘so-called poetry', and the witnesses hadn't even read them. Just as a number of our witnesses had not actually seen what had happened……And if that's how it is, then for me at least this trial is just a ‘so-called' trial. I am not afraid of you. I am not afraid of you and I am not afraid of the thinly veneered deceit of your verdict at this ‘so-called' trial. My truth lives with me. I believe that honesty, free-speaking and the thirst for truth will make us all a little freer. We will see this come to pass.


You can read the English translations of the women's full closing statements here. You can learn how you can get involved here.

Pussy Riot found guilty of hooliganism [Guardian]
Alicia Silverstone's letter to Putin [Guardian]
Pussy Riot Testimonies [MPT]
Live Blog: Guilty Verdict in Trial of Russian Punk Band [WSJ]


A two year sentence means that these women will still be in jail when Russia hosts the Winter Olympics.