Who? Today, the world’s eyes fell upon a packed Moscow court as three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were found guilty of hooliganism aimed at inciting religious hatred. Judge Marina Syrovya sentenced them to two years in prison for an impromptu forty-second church performance of their anti-Putin ‘prayer’ in February this year.
What? For most people watching the trial, it was a macabre and surreal experience. Encased in a small glass box, their hands manacled together and guarded by armed prison officers, Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich appeared calm and dignified, leagues away from the ingrained social notion most of us have of a ‘hooligan’. For someone living in Britain watching the drama unfold with the London riots still fresh in our minds, it’s a verdict that’s hard to grasp. We know all about hooligans and we’d definitely be able to spot one.
"We can say everything we want, and they have their mouths shut, and are puppets"
Why? As Syrovya delivered their sentence they laughed and joked with each other, a reaction the court seemed to find offensive, but their smiles and headshakes reflected the incredulity most people who have followed the trial have felt. “We are freer than those who are prosecuting us," Tolokonnikova said in an impassioned speech given at their hearing. "We can say everything we want, and they have their mouths shut, and are puppets."
As the police vans led the trio away, supporters across the globe united in protest, from home grown Russian supporters outside the court, to a topless chainsaw wielding member of Ukrainian women’s rights activists Femen hacking down a cross in Kiev, whilst in London hundreds of people flocked to the Royal Court theatre where live translations of the trial were performed by actresses.
Visit Amnesty to send a message of solidarity.
Text by Nicki Le Masurier
Nicki Le Masurier is a London-based writer. She organises Literary Death Match and a columnist for The Huffington Post.