2012-03-07 14:54:00

Blogger Navalny calls for releasing women who staged provocative stunt at cathedral

Moscow, March 7, Interfax - Prominent anti-corruption blogger and lawyer Alexey Navalny believes the two members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who were arrested for a provocative performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, should be released from jail.

"Their action at Christ the Savior Cathedral is idiotic, and there is nothing to argue about. To put it mildly, I would not like it if some cranky chicks broke into a church while I was there and started running around the altar," Navalny said on his LiveJournal account on Wednesday.

"Is their offence so publicly dangerous to keep them behind bars? Obviously not. Are there circumstances ruling out keeping them in detention? Obviously yes," he said.

It was reported earlier that Pussy Riot performed a song near the altar at Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, which many believers perceived as blasphemous. The cathedral security service tried to apprehend the girls, but they managed to flee. They later described their performance on Twitter as "a punk prayer."

A criminal case on disorderly conduct charges has been opened against the performers, who are now facing up to two years in prison.

There is no need to keep the members of a punk band with young children behind bars, Navalny said.

"Or are there concerns that they could intimidate witnesses? Or they might flee abroad on a private jet? They don't even have money to flee somewhere," he said.

"For instance, Vnesheconombank Deputy Chairman Ballo, accused of embezzling $14 million, was released on bail yesterday. A humane justice system has been on his side in this case. And do you remember the daughter of the Irkutsk elections commission chair? She ran over two people, and one of them died and the other was maimed. She was not arrested [before the trial] and was sentenced to three years in a settlement colony, with the sentence suspended for 14 years until her young child grows up," he said.

"Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina (the arrested Pussy Riot members) have gone on a hunger strike. They have been locked in cells for 60 days during an investigation into an offence which obviously cannot be punished harsher than five days of arrest. Let them mop the square around Christ the Savior Cathedral and think about their behavior. This is senseless and horrible cruelty, which is much worse than their very stupid but small offence," Navalny said.

"The best the Russian Orthodox Church can do now is display mercy and forgive the silly girls, ask for their immediate release before trial, and hold an educative conversation with them when they are released and return them to their young children," Navalny said.