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(New York) — Amnesty International today demanded that Russia immediately release three young women arrested for allegedly singing a protest song that criticizes both the Orthodox Church and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Several members of a music group called “Pussy Riot,” with their faces covered in balaclavas, sang a protest song entitled, “Virgin Mary, Redeem Us of Putin,” on Feb. 21 at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The song criticizes the support shown by some representatives of the Orthodox Church to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and calls on the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Putin.
The Russian authorities subsequently arrested Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on March 4, and Ekaterina Samusevich on March 15, claiming that they were the masked singers. Although the women admit to being members of the group, they deny any involvement in the protest in the cathedral.
Amnesty International said the charges against the women should be dropped, saying Russian authorities were wrong to charge the women with the serious criminal charge of hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.
The three women are currently in pre-trial detention until April 25.
A video montage of the song available on the internet has led to a wide debate surrounding the protest. Prime Minister Putin’s press secretary called the protest “despicable” and said it would be followed “with all the necessary consequences.”
Although a representative of the Orthodox Church initially called for mercy for the protestors, subsequent statements by representatives of the Church have called for harsh punishment, including for the women to be prosecuted for inciting hatred on the grounds of religion.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.