Keep up with the news by installing RT’s extension for . Never miss a story with this clean and simple app that delivers the latest headlines to you.

 

Pussy Riot on the run: Criminal case launched against other 'punk prayer' participants

Published time: August 20, 2012 12:46
Edited time: August 20, 2012 19:02
Screenshot from YouTube video / A K Smith

Screenshot from YouTube video / A K Smith

A new criminal case was launched into two Pussy Riot members who escaped police after participating in an infamous ‘punk prayer’ in Moscow’s main cathedral. The announcement comes days after their co-participants were sentenced to two years in jail.

­“We have launched a separate criminal case against the unknown members of the ‘Pussy Riot’ band, and are seeking to establish their identities,” a police spokesperson told the Interfax news agency.

Five members of Pussy Riot performed a ‘punk prayer’ in Christ the Savior Cathedral in February, and video of the event was later posted on YouTube. Two of the participants escaped detection, while the other three were identified at the scene.

On August 17, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina were found guilty of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,’ and sentenced to two years each in a medium-security prison.

The women’s defense team has said they will appeal the verdict and push for a full acquittal.

The controversial case has triggered a wave of criticism, with governments criticizing the verdict as “disproportionate” and rallies in support of Pussy Riot taking place all over the world.

The verdict of two years in jail has divided Russians both inside and outside the country, with many saying that Pussy Riot’s actions deserved to be punished harshly for insulting believers’ faith and feelings. Others argued that the sentence was too harsh.

A number of Russian public figures signed a petition calling for the women to be released on bail, and for their criminal charges to be replaced with administrative ones. Human rights groups like Amnesty International and the Moscow-Helsinki Group rallied behind the women, claiming they were victims of political persecution.

Many Western celebrities and famous pop and rock artists also voiced support for Pussy Riot. Beatles rocker Paul McCartney also made a show of support, urging the women to “stay strong” and demanding that authorities allow their freedom of speech. Superstars like Madonna, Bjork, Sting, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More have called for the women to be freed.

The public in Russia and throughout the world also staged rallies showing their support to the Pussy Riot trio. Protests in support of Pussy Riot covered streets in Paris, Berlin, Helsinki, New York, and Vienna. Pussy Riot copycats have even staged stunts in several cathedrals.

The Pussy Riot trial was harshly criticized by western media. The Guardian dubbed the proceedings a “theatre of the absurd.”

When interviewed by journalists after the trial, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the convicted women, described it as “an illusion,” saying that she “doesn’t believe in the court’s decision at all” since “there is no court.” The punk trio decried Judge Marina Syrova as biased, and demanded several times during the trial that she recuse herself from the case.

The women’s defense team also accused the judge of using evidences in the case that witnesses had never provided, they claimed.

"The sentence was absolutely unlawful. Victims and some witnesses were reported to give evidence they never gave," defense attorney Mark Feigin told reporters after the trial. "This was a mock proceeding and the sentence crowns it."