2012-07-27 19:10:00

U.S. ambassador to Russia: Pussy Riot performers' treatment too hars

Moscow, July 27, Interfax - The U.S. ambassador to Russia has expressed concern over current criminal action against three women punk rock band performers who have been in detention since February for a scandalous anti-Putin performance inside Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

The action against the Pussy Riot band musicians is most likely disproportionate to what they have done, Ambassador Michael McFaul told Russian online newspaper Gazeta.ru.

The three young women, who were wearing masks, appeared in the cathedral on February 21. They climbed a pulpit and staged a punk concert. The action triggered a huge outcry.

A criminal case on "hooliganism" charges was opened. The performers were detained.

Rights defenders hold that the maximum the three women deserve for their minor hooliganism is administrative punishment. Amnesty International declared the Pussy Riot detainees prisoners of conscience.

The three performers were remanded in custody until January 12, 2013, during a closed-door hearing at Moscow's Khamovnichesky Court.

The next hearing is due on July 30.

McFaul expressed anxiety in his gazeta.ru interview at allegations by Russian officials that the action against the Pussy Riot musicians is in line with international legal standards, and that so is some recent Russian legislation that has been attacked by rights activists.

It is a key international legal principle that punishment must be commensurable with the crime it has been meted out for, McFaul said. Moreover, it is untrue that the new Russian law to confer "foreign agent" status on foreign-funded nongovernmental organizations that engage in politics is effectively a replica of a U.S. law, he said.

McFaul said the Pussy Riot affair is giving rise to worldwide concerns.

He said he had heard Russian President Vladimir Putin say he wanted more democratic government. McFaul said he believed Putin was telling the truth.

The ambassador also said the U.S. is making efforts to ensure that all countries comply with democratic principles.