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Russia court orders review of Pussy Riot verdicts

12 december 2013, 16:51
0
Maria Alyokhina, jailed member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot. ©Reuters/Roman Yarovitsyn
Maria Alyokhina, jailed member of Russian punk band Pussy Riot. ©Reuters/Roman Yarovitsyn
The Russian Supreme Court has ordered a review of the guilty verdicts handed to two members of punk band Pussy Riot, three months before the pair are due to be released from prison, AFP reports.

The highest Russian court reviewed the appeal by jailed Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and ordered the Moscow court that jailed them in August 2012 to review its guilty verdicts.

The two young women are serving two-year sentences in Russian penal colonies after being convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing an anti-Kremlin protest stunt in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

With just three months remaining of their sentence, the Supreme Court ruled that the "hatred" was never proven while their status as young mothers of underage children was ignored.

"The court did not provide any proof that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were motivated by hatred toward any social group in its verdict," the Supreme Court said in a decision posted on its official website.

The court also failed to review "extenuating circumstances", namely the fact that Alyokhina's son is only six years old while Tolokonnikova's daughter is five.

The court also ignored that the pair had no prior convictions, the "non-violent nature of their illegal actions" and the fact that victims of their actions never wanted to punish them so harshly, the document said.

Tolokonnikova, 24, Alyokhina, 25, and a third member Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested several weeks after staging a brief "punk prayer" on February 17, 2012, in the cathedral in protest of President Vladimir Putin's presidential campaign for a third term and the Russian Orthodox Church's support of him.

Their trial was decried internationally as unfair and global celebrities like Madonna have called for their release. Samutsevich was released on appeal with a suspended sentence, but the appeals of Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were systematically rejected.

Some rights campaigners are hoping that the women may be released early under a general amnesty mooted by the Kremlin, which lists women and people with dependents as possible candidates. However the document has not yet been approved and is likely to review convicts on a case-by-case basis.

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