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Pussy Riot: Russia condemned by European rights court

EUROPE
By BBC | July 17th 2018
Three of the band members were arrested and convicted for the cathedral performance in 2012. [Getty Images]

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Russia's arrest and imprisonment of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot in 2012.

In a ruling, the court held Russia had violated five articles of the convention, calling the case against the band "exceptionally severe".

Pussy Riot were arrested after performing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral.

Two band members served 16 months in prison after their conviction.

The activist group are opposed to Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Monday, Russia jailed four members of the band for disrupting the World Cup Finalwith a pitch invasion.

The court ruled that Russia had committed "multiple violations" of the European Convention during the arrests and sentencing in 2012.

The ECHR highlighted the band's "overcrowded conditions" when being transported to and from court, and the "humiliation" of their exposure in a glass dock during the trial as a breach of Article 3 of the convention.

Pussy Riot's extended detention before trial and lack of access to their lawyers also broke the convention, it added.

Moreover, the ECHR said the Russian court twice violated Article 10 - freedom of expression - by banning access to the group's videos online and for condemning the group's conduct and clothing, rather than examining the content of their protest song, during the trial.

In 2015, Russia's parliament passed a law allowing it to overrule judgements from the ECHR after the court ruled against the country for state spying.

Russia arrested Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich in February 2012 after they performed their song Punk Prayer - Virgin Mary, Drive Putin Away in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

Guards managed to remove the band after only about a minute of the song.

During their conviction, the judge said the three had committed "hooliganism" and showed "a complete lack of respect" for Orthodox believers.

All three were sentenced to two years in prison. Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova served 16 months, while Ms Samutsevich was released and had her sentence suspended after seven months in prison.

After their release, Pussy Riot publicly disowned Ms Alyokhina and Ms Tolokonnikova, saying the pair had forgotten the "aspirations and ideals of our group".

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