2012-03-12 10:01:00

MHG head urges Russian Church to temper justice with mercy in Pussy Riot case

Moscow, March 12, Interfax - Head of Russia's oldest independent human rights organization, Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), Lyudmila Alexeyeva has urged the Russian Orthodox Church to soften its tough stance in the case of punk group Pussy Riot, who staged a scandalous performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral.

"Unlike the State, the Church is meant not to execute but to have mercy and appeal for mercy, kindness and forgiveness," Alexeyeva told Interfax.

"I do not like what the Pussy Riot girls did. I agree that one should not break into a church. But the punishment must be adequate. One must judge by law: no softer, no harsher. I fear that our court will impose a tough sentence on these girls," Alexeyeva said.

The Church will not cede to the pressure of those "appealing for compassion" in the Pussy Riot case, Head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said earlier.

"We, the Orthodox Christians, have been defied in a brazen and aggressive manner. The lyrics of this band said that we "are crawling for bows," and foul language has been used alongside God's name. Provocative dancing and singing were staged on the holy premises of the church. No repentance has followed yet, neither from the participants in the 'performance,' nor their supporters or defenders," he wrote on the collective blog, "Orthodox Politics."

On February 21, the feminist punk band Pussy Riot staged a performance outside the entry to the altar at the Christ the Savior Cathedral. The band members said their performance was a "punk prayer." A criminal case on charges of unruly behavior has been launched. Three band members were arrested recently, and two of them detained. They announced a hunger strike in protest.

A few days ago Lidiya Moniava, children's program manager at the Vera (Faith) hospice foundation, posted a petition on LiveJournal to Patriarch Kirill, asking him to request that investigators close the criminal case against the Pussy Riot band. The petition was signed by several thousand people, including many Catholics and those who did not identify their religious affiliation.

Meanwhile, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said that "the Church is not going to cede to the pressure from an aggressive group that is now appealing for compassion."