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Pussy Riot Members Sue Russian Government at the European Court of Human Rights

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have likened their prosecution and detention following a controversial “punk prayer” to torture.

by Alice Speri
Jul 29 2014, 4:10pm

Photo via AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Two members of the protest group Pussy Riot who were given amnesty in December after nearly two years in jail are suing the Russian government over their imprisonment.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were charged with “hooliganism” and spent 21 months in jail after performing an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in Moscow’s orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012.

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The two are now likening their prosecution and detention to torture, and are taking the Russian government to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“They didn't get fair trial here in Russia so they want to get it finally in the European court of human rights,” Pavel Chikov, their lawyer, told the Guardian. “Plus 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 majority. This is a case about freedom of expression and fair trial first of all.”

The activists first filed a complaint in 2012, arguing that the Russian government had violated their rights to freedom of expression, liberty, security, and a fair trial — which are all guaranteed under the European convention of human rights, to which Russia is a signatory party. The convention also prohibits torture.

In a document responding to the ECHR questioning last month, Russian officials called the allegations “obviously unfounded.”

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Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are asking for about $160,000 each (120,000 euros) for emotional and physical damage, plus legal fees.

That's hardly enough — according to Tolokonnikova’s father, Andrey.

“What can I say? Good girls! But, in my opinion, the requested amount is too small,” he told Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. “They should have requested 250 million euros, not 250,000 euros.”

Pussy Riot has become a household name across the world and it members have been celebrated in the West as heroes, though they are far less popular in Russia.

Since their release, they have taken up the cause of prisoners’ rights and prison reform in Russia and abroad. The two said that they would donate any compensation they receive to human rights groups, including a prisoners’ advocacy organization they helped found called “Zone of the Rights.”

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Earlier this year, VICE News correspondent Simon Ostrovsky followed the women to a prison colony in Nizhny Novgorod where Alyokhina was detained towards the end of her incarceration.

“Russia is notorious for its prison labor camps, and has one of the highest proportions of citizens locked up behind bars,” Ostrovsky said in the documentary. “In Russia, being accused is almost the same as being guilty.”

Follow Alice Speri on Twitter: @alicesperi

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russia
moscow
Putin
PUSSY RIOT
HUMAN RIGHTS
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
hooliganism
European Court of Human Rights
Prisoners' rights
Punk Prayer
nizhny novgorod
cathedral of christ the savior
maria alyokhin
pavel chikov
zone of the rights