2012-04-05 10:00:00

Federation Council displeased by decision to declare Pussy Riot girls prisoners of conscience

Moscow, April 5, Interfax - The Federation Council finds groundless the decision of Amnesty International to declare arrested members of Pussy Riot punk band prisoners of conscience.

"These women committed a shameless act and shameless people cannot be prisoners of conscience. Therefore the decision is strange, to put it mildly," first vice speaker of the Federation Council Alexander Torhsin told Interfax.

He addressed his question to the head of Amnesty International in Russia Sergey Nikitin. "In this case we would want to hear his opinion. This is absurd," the senator said.

In his opinion, the church is being harassed. He does not think that there is some global conspiracy against Russia but "it is absolutely clear that someone would want to shake the belfry so that the sound of church bells would not be heard in Russia anymore." "We had that in our history already and everyone remembers perfectly well what it all lead to," Torshin said.

Member of the Federation Council Committee for Legal and Judicial Issues Mikhail Kapura commenting on the decision of Amnesty International noted that the organization "discredited itself a long time ago and cannot be taken seriously."

In his opinion, the reaction of Amnesty International is an attempt "to bark at Russia once again."

He described as cynical the evaluation of the Pussy Riot action given by head of Amnesty International in Russia Sergey Nikitin.

Amnesty International recognized the members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot, arrested for their scandalous performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, as prisoners of conscience.

"Even if the three arrested women did take part in the action, such severe response measures by the Russian authorities as taking them into custody on charges of such a serious crime as disorderly conduct are an unjustifiably tough reaction to a peaceful, although insulting to many people, expression of their political views. Hence, these three women can be considered prisoners of conscience," Nikitin, the head of the Amnesty International office in Russia, told Interfax.

"Amnesty International calls for immediate and unconditional release of the three young women whom the Russian authorities have arrested as members of the punk band Pussy Riot and who performed a protest song in the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on February 21," Nikitin said.

Pussy Riot, an all-girl punk group, sang an anti-Putin song at the Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, calling it a "punk prayer." A video of the "concert" swiftly spread through the Internet. Police opened a criminal case against the singers on disorderly conduct charges. Three singers, i.e. Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekatrina Santsevich, were later detained, and courts ruled that they will remain in custody at least until April 24.

The Pussy Riot action caused a broad public response and has become a matter of controversy. The Russian Orthodox Church and a larger part of Russian believers demanded that the feminists be punished, but quite a numerous group of Orthodox believers called for pardoning them.