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Pussy Riot members suing Moscow in European Court of Human Rights

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 9:35pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 9:35pm
 

Two members of the feminist group Pussy Riot are suing the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rights over their imprisonment for a 2012 "punk prayer" protest at a Moscow cathedral.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who were given an amnesty in December after serving 21 months in prison and pre-trial confinement, are demanding €120,000 (HK$1.25 million) each in compensation, plus €10,000 in court fees. They argue that the investigation and prosecution violated their rights and amounted to torture.

"They didn't get a fair trial here in Russia so they want to get it finally in the European Court of Human Rights," said Pavel Chikov, the head of the human rights legal group Agora, which is representing the two women.

"They want this case to set a precedent that Russians can speak publicly on sensitive political issues, even if this speech is not supported by the majority. This is a case about freedom of expression and fair trial."

Pussy Riot came to the world's attention with their protest on February 21, 2012, when they tried to perform the song Mother of God, Drive Putin Out in Christ the Saviour cathedral near the Kremlin. Three group members were convicted of hooliganism.

Yekaterina Samutsevich was given a suspended sentence in October 2012, while Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova served time in far-flung prison colonies, where they went on hunger strike in protest at the harsh conditions. They were released in December in what was largely viewed as a gesture of goodwill by the Kremlin before the Sochi Olympics.

The activists, who initiated the complaint in 2012, argue that Russia violated four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security and a fair trial, and prohibiting torture.

The ECHR's questions to the Russian government on the case earlier this year suggested that the harsh schedule of trial hearings, the glass cage in which the defendants were kept and the heightened security measures could be considered inhumane.

Moscow called the complaint "obviously unfounded".

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