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      Pussy Riot Have Been Found Guilty Pussy Riot Have Been Found Guilty Pussy Riot Have Been Found Guilty

      Pussy Riot Have Been Found Guilty

      August 17, 2012

      Update: Friday, August 17, 9:59 AM: Unsurprisingly, Pussy Riot were found guilty on charges of hooliganism today. We'll have a full report from outside the Russian embassy in London later this afternoon as well as a summation of the protest situation globally, but for now this blog has been edited to reflect that.

      Updated again on Friday, August 17, after sentencing at 10:06 AM.

      Happy Global Pussy Riot Day! Sad Global Pussy Riot Day :( If you've any interest in punk rock, feminism, freedom of speech, or justice, you'll know by now that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevic have been found guilty of hooliganism in a very high-profile court case in Moscow.

      The maximum sentence they faced was seven years in prison, but they ended up with two, which is still beyond ludicrous since nothing during the protest was damaged and no one was hurt. Apart maybe from Putin's ego and the public image of the Russian Orthodox Church, but neither of those things (ostensibly, at least) are crimes against anything enshrined in Russian law (yet).

      The prosecutor in the case isn't seeking the full seven years, but is attempting to ensure that Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina, and Samutsevic spend the next three years doing "corrective labor."

      The show trial has focused the world's attention upon the band, with Pussy Riot protest groups pre-empting the verdict and gathering outside Russian embassies across the planet to register their anger with it.

      In Moscow, police have begun to move in on protesters while the judge continues to sum up the case. And for some reason fucking Gary Kasparov has been arrested—Twitter user Olaf Koens (@obk) just posted this image of the Russian chess genius being manhandled into the back of a riot van:

      We'll have a full photo report from the demonstration outside the Russian embassy in London later this afternoon. For now, you can follow events on the VICE Twitter page, or on the pages of our reporters at the scene, Simon Childs and Henry Langston.

      The last we heard, a bunch of riot vans just showed up.

      Back in March, the three women were arrested after this performance of their "Punk Prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral:

      They were charged with hooliganism and not granted bail, which means they spent six months in prison before the trial even started.

      The trial has sparked a wave of ongoing protests in Russia (that the police have decided to quell with violence), as well as declarations of solidarity from famous people like Sting, Madonna, and Danny DeVito.

      Amnesty International have been spearheading a campaign to highlight the band's case, calling on Russia to observe the concept of freedom of expression and drop all charges. They've put together a number of petitions across the planet hoping to pressure the Russian government into leniency, though in Washington DC the petition was unceremoniously thrown out onto the streets by embassy staff. 

      I went down to the Russian embassy in London last night (Thursday, 16th August) to see if the staff here would do the same. Before the petition was handed in, girls dressed in their finest Pussy Riot attire and shackled in chains posed in front of the embassy as a nervous diplomatic cop looked on. While there, I spoke to David Diaz, Amnesty's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia and the man responsible for handing over the petition.

      VICE: How many signatures are in this petition?
      David: We got about 12,000 signatures from the UK alone, just to mention independently of Amnesty. We had around 200 Russian cultural figures make an appeal, which was posted on a Moscow radio show's website and was followed by a 45,000 signature petition in Moscow.

      What is the petition calling for?
      Amnesty has termed the members of Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience, because they have been charged solely on the basis of expressing their opinions peacefully. We call for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.

      Are you hoping for the petition to be accepted? In Washington they threw it on the street.
      We hope so. We are simply transmitting what people feel about Pussy Riot and trying to demand their rights, it's a very simple process. We take no grievance with what happened in Washington. What is important is that there are three people facing criminal charges for peacefully expressing dissent. That's what really matters. 

      What becomes of Russia if Pussy Riot are found guilty?
      Russia at the moment stands at a turning point, which will show whether they want to set the limits to freedom of expression at the right place. Protecting freedom of expression is part of international law. However, we are very concerned, as this is taking place in the background of a wider crackdown on freedom of assembly and expression. There are new laws being introduced that overthrow foreign NGOs. There's also this other, brand new law that prohibits any unauthorized demonstrations. So, those who are organizing and partaking in protests are being severely prosecuted and that's a straight violation of freedom of expression. 

      What do you hope will happen at today's protest?
      We hope that the message gets across to the Russian authorities. There are people, both in and outside Russia, who call on them to respect their international obligations. It's critical for a healthy government to be subject to criticism no matter where it comes from.

      What will Amnesty do if Pussy Riot are found guilty?
      We'll continue to call for their release and we will continue to work on this case. We will never drop them. 

      After our chat, David handed the petition in to the security guard at the front of the embassy. Fortunately, this time around it wasn't thrown out into the streets, with the whole exercise being quite civil. At the end of it everyone grabbed their placards and went home. Judging by the weight of discontent surrounding the case and Pussy Riot's liberty, today's protests might not be quite so amicable.

      Follow Henry on twitter: @Henry_Langston

      Previously:

      Meeting Pussy Riot

      Free Pussy Riot

      We Went To A Pussy Riot Protest Contest

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      Topics: Pussy Riot, petition, Global Pussy Riot Day, Amnesty International, Free Pussy Riot, protest, Russia, Putin, Kirill

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