20 August 2012, 16:26
Interference in Pussy Riot trial impermissible – Lavrov (updated)
Helsinki, August 20, Interfax - Interference in the Pussy Riot trial is impermissible, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a Monday press conference in Helsinki.
"There must be no interference in the court work. One may agree or disagree [with the judgment] personally but interference in the court work is impermissible," he said.
The minister also said that three members of Pussy Riot who were convicted on Thursday for an anti-Putin song in a Moscow cathedral in February would be able to appeal their sentence of two years in a high security prison.
"Let me remind those who are claiming that our court wasn't making an independent decision that before the verdict was announced the president of the Russian Federation advocated clemency toward those young women, and the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church had taken a similar position. In any case, no one has abolished the judicial procedures, there is the possibility of filing an appeal, and so let's not draw any hasty conclusions or least of all stage any hysterics," Lavrov told a news conference after talks with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja.
Lavrov was commenting on complaints that the sentence was an unjustifiably harsh punishment for the three musicians' performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a song in the form of a prayer asking the Virgin Mary to drive out Vladimir Putin, who was then running for president.
Lavrov claimed that there exist laws in European countries punishing behavior in churches that offends worshipers.
"As regards whether this punishment is proportional or disproportionate [to the offense the three performers were charged with], I can just cite the factual side of the matter. In Germany, blasphemy in churches is punishable with up to three years in prison, in France with two years, in Austria with six months, in Finland, as far as I know, blasphemy in churches is punishable with two years," he said.
He mentioned a recent incident in Israel in which a man was sentenced to two years of jail for bringing a severed pig's head to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.