Time is Running Out for Pussy Riot

August 7, 2012
members of pussy riot
Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina could face three years in prison after they called for Vladimir Putin’s ouster in a song. (Photo AFP/GettyImages)

We thought we had more time. Sadly, the latest reports are saying that we may only have less than a week to stop Russian prosecutors from pursuing the outrageous charges against feminist punk band, Pussy Riot.

These young women are in serious danger of being shipped off to a labor camp, where they risk both physical and sexual abuse as prosecutors seek a 3-year sentence against them. There is no time to lose (take action here now).

Why? Because their punk rock band gave a politically charged and impromptu performance poking fun at President Putin at a cathedral.

But don’t judge these women too harshly. At least that’s what Putin said himself in a stunning statement Thursday:

“There is nothing good in what they did [but] I don’t think they should be judged too severely.”

However, Putin’s words have not yet translated into action. Three years incarceration is still a very real possibility. A verdict is expected to be handed down Tuesday, August 17.

Say what you will about Pussy Riot: this may not be your kind of music. Some people find their shows offensive.

But it doesn’t change the facts: Since March, these young women have been in jail and kept from their families, including small children, and they are being threatened with seven years imprisonment – all because of a peaceful protest song that lasted less than a minute.

pussy riot
Members of Pussy Riot perform on a platform in front of St Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow.

Amnesty International considers these women to be prisoners of conscience, and we are not going to give up on them. Sadly, members of Pussy Riot aren’t the only ones getting caught up in the backlash against dissidents in Russia lately. One of Putin’s fiercest critics, blogger Alexei Navalny, was charged last week with embezzlement, a crime that could carry up to a 10-year prison sentence.

The crackdown doesn’t stop there. In recent weeks, President Putin and his cronies have moved swiftly to limit street protests by enforcing hefty fines and re-criminalizing some forms of defamation.

Human rights abuses have continued unabated in the country, with a startling suppression of freedom of expression and assembly­—an admission made by both human rights organizations and the U.S. State Department, most recently in the 2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices.  In his ever-reaching tenure, Putin has helped create a system that meets the performers of a protest song with charges of hooliganism on the grounds of religious hate.

Some high-profile musicians are also taking action in solidarity. During recent concerts in Russia, rockers Sting, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand all called on the Russian authorities to free Pussy Riot and respect freedom of expression. Madonna, Peter Gabriel and Pete Townshend of The Who have voiced their support too.

It is not hard to spot other Pussy Riot supporters – bright tights, colorful dresses and faces covered by balaclavas. At our protests outside the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, we’re using multi-colored ski masks – check out our pictures!

We need your help to convince Russian prosecutors to drop the charges against the band. Even if you’ve already taken action, please send a message now. Say it loud, say it proud: Free Pussy Riot!

Update: This post was updated 8/8/12 to reflect a new verdict date

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