Pussy Riot
The Right To Rock?
Glenn Stefano
DSN News

Monday 11/05/2012 09:05:10 (PT)  Print

LOS ANGELES --The music world was recently shaken by news of the arrest of the Russian rock group Pussy Riot, who were sentenced to two years in prison in mid-August on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after performing an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the three jailed members of the anti-Kremlin punk band "got what they asked for" days before a Moscow court was due to consider their appeal.

Industry observers say this may have been one of the first instances of a state ordered imprisonment of rock musicians for political reasons, as
Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, have been held in a Moscow detention center since their arrest in March.

A lawyer for the women, Nikolai Polozov, said Putin's comments were part of "a planned propaganda campaign aimed at getting the court to form a negative opinion" in the appeal case. "This is pressure on the court." He compared it to comments Putin made before the sentencing in August, when the President said he thought the women should not be judged "too harshly" - they were subsequently handed a two-year sentence instead of a possible seven.

Musicians from around the globe such as
Paul McCartney
, Madonna, Sting, Pete Townshend, Green Day, Creeper, Peter Gabriel, Mercury Bullet, Courtney Love, Beyond Perception, and hundreds of others have stepped up to show support and raise awareness for the release of the members of Pussy Riot.

"Music has been for so many years a form of expression, not only for feelings but also for political protest, freedom of speech and against all forms of oppression" said Kostas Kalavrezos, guitarist for the Athens-based rock group Beyond Perception, who has witnessed the recent political unrest in Greece. "It is sad to see people who express their beliefs getting punished in such an unfair way" added

Putin claimed that he had played no role in the case, "I have nothing to do with it," he said. "They got what they asked for, it was right that they were arrested, and the court's decision was right."

In response to massive pressure from world media attention, the court tried to save face
and one member of the group
, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on appeal, but Tolokonnikova and Alekhina, were sent to prison camps to serve their sentences.

"I find it sad that in this day and age Russia and Putin are wasting time and money on a silly stunt by this band, the girls apologized for their actions drop it, let it go and the girls should be set free!" says Jimi Fritz, from the heavy metal group Creeper. "Russia needs to spend more time on the real problems they have with crime and their country, instead of what seems to me to be a political stunt for Putin to regain his lost popularity."

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, tried to distance himself from the drama recently, stating the remaining women should be set free."If I was a judge I wouldn't have sent them to prison. Just because I don't consider it correct that their punishment was in the form of a custodial sentence. They'd already been [in pre-trial detention], and that was enough."

The women are woken up at 6:30am, and their workday begins at 7:30am and continues for eight hours by law, but sometimes more. Most of the women in Tolokonnikova's prison work in the sewing industry, where they make clothes for the well-padded echelons of Russia's special and civil services. Tolokonnikova has not yet begun working mandatory shifts, but was offered the chance to break some asphalt within the prison compound, a task she undertook with fervor after being cooped up for too long, Verzilov said.

Relatives are allowed to visit the women inside the prison for several hours, six times a year. Conjugal visits, for three days, are permitted four times per year. With the right stack of paperwork, prisoners are allowed food, books, medicine, and clothes - in black, the uniform of the prison - from relatives and friends.

Musicians sentenced to prison just for speaking their mind in public, a thought many rockers can't believe is happening in a post communist Russia, which describes itself as a modern democracy. "I feel everyone should have the right to speak what's on their mind, the freedom of speech" said Mercury Bullet guitarist Andrew Beasley, "you take that away and then you have communism!"

Meanwhile, Russia's main Russian patent agency refused to register the words "Pussy Riot" as a trademark. The agency did not provide any details on why the request was turned down.

"This is why socialism doesn't work and why the entire human race should have free speech" said Fritz, "you would never hear of such pettiness or a waste of tax payers dollars In America!"

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