May 22, 2013
Freed Russian punk band member takes case to European court
The sole member of anti-Kremlin punk group Pussy Riot freed on appeal has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights, she and her lawyer said on Friday, accusing Russia of violating her right to freedom of speech and illegally detaining her.
Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was one of three band members sentenced to two years in jail in August for belting out a profanity-laced song against President Vladimir Putin in a cathedral in a case that sparked an international outcry.
Her jail term was converted to a suspended sentence and Samutsevich was freed on appeal on October 10 after six months behind bars after her lawyer successfully argued she had not actually taken part in the protest because she had been stopped and led away before it took place.
The lawyer, Irina Khrunova, said the Samutsevich's rights had been violated during six months of pre-trial detention as she was left without food for hours and deprived of sleep.
"The violations were very serious and very evident," Samutsevich told Reuters in a Moscow cafe on Friday.
"I don't like the fact that they did not acquit me and the other girls ... and I want to challenge that before the European court. Sadly the Russian courts have not shown objectivity or fairness."
Samutsevich told Reuters last week that Pussy Riot had "achieved more than our goal" by igniting debate about the close ties between the Russian state and the Orthodox Church, whose spiritual leader has likened Putin's rule to "a miracle of God".
She also said the trial had been an ordeal, with she and her fellow band members roused in their cells daily at 5 a.m. after returning to jail at 1 a.m. the previous night.
"It was constant stress, constantly being under guard, handcuffed," she said in the interview.
The two other band members - Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 - remain in jail after a Moscow court upheld their prison sentences, a ruling Putin said they had deserved.
The trio was found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after performing a song asking the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out" on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February.
The protest prompted accusations of blasphemy from the Orthodox Church and acerbic criticism from Putin, but sparked an outcry from Western governments and pop stars, including Madonna, who condemned the sentences as disproportionate.
However, the altar protest was offensive to many back in Russia, which is legally a secular state