(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - More than 100 internationally renowned musicians have joined a worldwide call for the release of the two jailed members of the Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot ahead of their parole appeal hearings this week.
In an open letter, coordinated by Amnesty International as part of its on-going campaign to free 25-year-old Maria Alekhina and 23-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the musicians pledge their support and state that the impact of Pussy Riot's "shockingly unjust trial and imprisonment has spread far and wide, especially among your fellow artists, musicians and citizens around the world."
The letter continues, "While understanding the sensitivities of protesting in a place of worship, we ask that the Russian authorities review these harsh sentences, so that you may return to your children, your families and your lives."
One of the signatories to the letter, Yoko Ono, says: "I thank Pussy Riot for standing firmly in their belief for Freedom of Expression, and making all women of the world proud to be women."
Lucy Macnamara, Communications Manager for Art for Amnesty, comments: "The Pussy Riot case has shocked musicians all over the world and we've had an incredible response to the call to sign this letter. Several musicians have told me that if you can't sing a protest song without fear of arrest then something is badly wrong. Let's hope the Russian authorities finally see sense and release Maria and Nadezhda."
The parole hearings come almost a year after the start of the heavily publicized trial of Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and a third group member, Ekaterina Samutsevich. The three were charged with "hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred" after Pussy Riot performed a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. They were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Amnesty described the outcome as a "bitter blow for freedom of expression" in Russia.
Samutsevich was later released on probation, but appeals by Alekhina and Tolokonnikova have been turned down. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova will both have their parole appeals heard by the regional higher courts this week.
Amnesty International invites everyone to take action to help free the women at amnestyusa.org/pussyriot.
Amnesty International has prepared a briefing on the continued crackdown of freedom of expression in Russia by President Vladimir Putin and his government. Russia will be the host of the XXII Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in February 2014.
The full list of artists includes:
Bryan Adams, Adele, Alt-J, Laurie Anderson, Animal Collective, Anti-Flag, Arcade Fire, Arch Enemy, Archive, Joan Armatrading, Joan Baez, Beardyman, Jeff Beck, Yasiin Bey, björk, Rubén Blades, Billy Bragg, Jackson Browne, Peter Buck, Tracy Chapman, Chase & Status, The Chemical Brothers, Neneh Cherry, The Clash, Coldplay, Lily Rose Cooper, Dido, Django Django, Melissa Etheridge, Siobhan Fahey, Paloma Faith, First Aid Kit, Franz Ferdinand, Foster the People, fun., Peter Gabriel, Bob Geldof, Kim Gordon, Debbie Harry, PJ Harvey, Don Henley, The Hidden Cameras, Niall Horan, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Ke$ha, Angelique Kidjo, The Knife, Mark Knopfler, Tom Lehrer, Sean Lennon, Annie Lennox, Lykke Li, Sir Paul McCartney, Romy Madley-Croft, Madonna, Zayn Malik, Stephen Malkmus, Marina & the Diamonds, Johnny Marr, Massive Attack, Mike Mills, Moby, Thurston Moore, Tom Morello, Alanis Morissette, James Morrison, Graham Nash, Kate Nash, Youssou N'Dour, Karen O, Yoko Ono, Clock Opera, Ozzy Osbourne, Liam Payne, Peaches, Joe Perry, Phoenix, Rain Phoenix, Portishead, Portugal. The Man, Cat Power, Radiohead, Bonnie Raitt, Rise Against, Patti Scialfa, Scissor Sisters, Paul Simon, Sleigh Bells, Patti Smith, Esperanza Spalding, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Stewart, Sting, Michael Stipe, Harry Styles, Neil Tennant, Louis Tomlinson, Pete Townshend, K T Tunstall, U2, Eddie Vedder.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.