Pussy Riot’s former members Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are suing the Russian government over their imprisonment for a protest in a Moscow cathedral.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova say their prosecutions amounted to torture.
They have filed a case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against Russia, seeking compensation.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are demanding 120,000 euros each in damages, plus 10,000 euros court costs.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikov’s father, Andrey, said the pair should have asked for greater compensation.
“What can I say? Good girls! But, in my opinion, the requested amount is too small,” he said.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are suing the Russian government over their imprisonment for a protest in a Moscow cathedral
“They should have requested 250 million euros, not 250,000 euros,” he told the popular Russian newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were among five Pussy Riot members who donned balaclavas in February 2012 and tried to perform their song Mother of God, Drive Putin Out, in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, near the Kremlin.
The performance was interrupted by staff at the cathedral and they were arrested along with a third member of the group.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were sentenced to two years in prison each after being convicted of hooliganism.
They both served 21 months in prison and pre-trial detention.
Their story was covered widely, and they were viewed sympathetically in western countries.
Their actions were seen as blasphemous by many Russians, and were condemned by the Orthodox Church.
The two Pussy Riot members opened their action at the ECHR in June 2012, while their own cases in Russia were still ongoing.
They argued that their detention and trial had violated European Convention of Human Rights articles which prohibit torture and guarantee freedom of expression, security and liberty, and a fair trial. Russia is a signatory to the convention.
Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot have signed an open letter insisting Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova not be billed as members.
The letter said Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group”.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova performed alongside Madonna at a concert in New York on Wednesday.
They were jailed for two years after singing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral in 2012 but were freed in December.
Known as “Masha” and “Nadia”, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spent 16 months in prison.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova performed alongside Madonna at a concert in New York
The six members of the collective who signed the letter – Garadja, Fara, Shaiba, Cat, Seraphima and Schumacher – say they wish to remain anonymous.
They said that their group belonged to a “leftist anti-capitalist ideology” but that the pair had become “institutionalized advocates of prisoners’ rights”.
The letter read: “Unfortunately for us, they are being so carried away with the problems in Russian prisons, that they completely forgot about the aspirations and ideals of our group – feminism, separatist resistance, fight against authoritarianism and personality cult, all of which, as a matter of fact, was the cause for their unjust punishment.”
The remaining members of the group criticized Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova for appearing at the Amnesty International concert in New York.
“Our performances are always <<illegal>>, staged only in unpredictable locations and public places not designed for traditional entertainment,” the group said.
The group said that although Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had repeatedly stressed they were no longer members, the public announcement before their speech spoke of “the first legal performance of Pussy Riot”.
The letter did praise the former members for their new cause.
“Yes, we lost two friends, two ideological fellow member (sic), but the world has acquired two brave, interesting, controversial human rights defenders – fighters for the rights of the Russian prisoners.”
However, it added: “Unfortunately, we cannot congratulate them with this in person, because they refuse to have any contact with us.”
Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will appear at a concert promoting human rights in New York City, its organizer has said.
Amnesty International says Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will appear at a February 5 concert in New York’s Brooklyn borough.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spent 16 months in prison after their arrest in August 2012 for singing a protest song in a Moscow cathedral.
Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will appear at a concert promoting human rights in New York City
They were freed last month in what they derided as a publicity stunt.
“A month ago, we were freed from Russian prison camps,” Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said in a joint statement.
“We will never forget what it’s like to be in prison after a political conviction. We have vowed to continue helping those who remain behind bars.”
It is not clear whether they will perform at the concert at the Barclay’s Center, which will feature The Flaming Lips, Imagine Dragons, Lauryn Hill and Tegan and Sara, among others, according to promotional material released by Amnesty International.
Pussy Riot band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been moved from prison to a medical unit at the penal colony where she is on hunger strike.
The news about Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was reported on Twitter by her husband, Pyotr Verzilov.
“Nadya is now in hospital, but they’re refusing to provide documents about that, or to meet the defence [team]. A blockade has begun,” he said.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has complained of abuses by the prison staff in Mordovia.
Her lawyer Dmitry Dinze, quoted by Russian media, said she was very weak, with low blood pressure and low blood sugar. She began a hunger strike on Monday.
Dmitry Dinze was also quoted as saying the administrators of penal labor colony No 14, where she is serving a two-year sentence, had been summoned to Moscow. It is not yet clear what the Moscow consultation is about.
After she went on hunger strike, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was moved to an isolation cell for her own safety, the prison authorities said.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has been moved from prison to a medical unit at the penal colony where she is on hunger strike
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and another band member, Maria Alyokhina, were jailed after performing a crude protest song in a Moscow cathedral. A third band member was released on appeal.
Their act was regarded as blasphemous by many Russians, but their prosecution caused an international outcry.
Mordovia, some 275 miles east of Moscow, has labor camps dating back to the notorious Gulag system set up by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
Requests by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina for parole were rejected. Nadezhd Tolokonnikova’s release date is expected to be March 3rd, 2014.
On Thursday Nadezhda Tolokonnikova alleged that she had been left without drinking water in her cell and that a guard had grabbed her arms and shoulders. She described it as the first use of physical force against her, and urged the authorities to transfer her to a different prison.
The prison service denied her account, saying her water bottles had been replaced with warm water on doctors’ advice and physical force had not been used against her.
In a letter released to media this week, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said she had complained that she faced threats from other inmates, and also about long hours of forced labor.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said female inmates were treated like “slaves”, working 17 hours a day sewing police uniforms.
If they failed to meet their quotas they were punished by being denied food, prevented from using the bathroom or made to stand outside in the cold, she wrote.
The prison service denied those allegations, saying women worked no more than eight hours a day.
A Moscow court has freed Yekaterina Samutsevich, one of the convicted women from the punk band Pussy Riot, but upheld two-year jail terms for the other two.
There were cheers in court when the two-year jail term of Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was suspended.
Earlier the trio spoke defiantly at the appeal hearing, saying their protest song was political and not anti-Church.
In August they were jailed for staging an anti-Kremlin protest in Moscow’s main cathedral, Christ the Saviour.
Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.
Their imprisonment sparked widespread international condemnation.
The judges on Wednesday accepted the argument of Yekaterina Samutsevich’s lawyer – that she had been thrown out of the cathedral by guards before she could remove her guitar from its case for the band’s “punk prayer”.
The other band members cheered and hugged Yekaterina Samutsevich when the decision was read out.
The two-year jail term of Yekaterina Samutsevich was suspended
One of the defence lawyers, Mark Feigin, said “we’re glad that Yekaterina Samutsevich has been freed, but we think the other two girls should also be released”. The appeal process would continue, he said.
Yekaterina Samutsevich’s father reacted with the words: “What happiness! But what a shame about the other girls – they don’t deserve such a harsh punishment.”
Earlier Maria Alyokhina told the hearing: “We’re all innocent… the verdict should be overturned. The Russian justice system looks discredited.”
Maria Alyokhina said that “of course we didn’t want to offend worshippers” when they protested at the cathedral’s altar.
She said the trio’s apologies had been ignored, but repentance was out of the question.
“For us to repent – that’s unacceptable, it’s a kind of blackmail,” she said, adding that repentance was a personal matter, unconnected with a legal case.
She added she had “lost hope in this trial”.
The three women sat in a glass cage in court, facing a three-judge panel.
The band performed an obscenity-laced song at the Moscow cathedral on 21 February.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told the court “it’s as clear as daylight that this was a political act, not anti-religious… I ask you to quash this sentence”.
Maria Alyokhina warned that if they were sent to a penal colony for two years “we won’t stay silent – even in Mordovia, or Siberia – however uncomfortable that is for you”.
Their “punk prayer” – which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw out” President Vladimir Putin and sought, the band said, to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for the president – enraged the Church.
But while the Church hierarchy said the women’s action “cannot be left unpunished”, it added that any penitence shown should be taken into consideration.
Those comments followed a suggestion from Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that a suspended sentence would have been sufficient punishment.
But Vladimir Putin last week defended the sentence, speaking on Russian NTV television.
“It’s right that they were arrested, it’s right that the court took that decision, because you can’t undermine the foundations of morality, our moral values, destroy the country. What would we be left with then?” Vladimir Putin said.
Opinion polls in Russia suggest a majority backing the sentence against Pussy Riot. One poll found 43% of respondents considered the sentence too lenient.
On Wednesday the judge rejected two motions from defence lawyers to call in experts for their opinions and more witnesses from the cathedral. The defendants’ plea to hold a fresh psychological and linguistic evaluation of their protest song was also rejected.
Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country, the band’s Twitter account says.
Three members of the group were jailed this month for staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.
The pair who fled has not been named but the husband of one of the jailed women said the duo had taken part in the cathedral protest in February.
Many in the West condemned the Pussy Riot sentences as disproportionate.
However, the Kremlin has rejected accusations by musicians and some governments that the case was politically motivated.
Two members of punk-rock group Pussy Riot, who are being sought by Russian police, have fled the country
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and jailed for two years.
The Twitter account called Pussy Riot Group said: “In regard to the pursuit, two of our members have successfully fled the country! They are recruiting foreign feminists to prepare new actions!”
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, told Reuters news agency: “Since the Moscow police said they are searching for them, they will keep a low profile for now. They are in a safe place beyond the reach of the Russian police.”
He suggested that this meant a country that had no extradition arrangement with Russia.
Pyotr Verzilov told Reuters: “Twelve or even 14 members who are still in Russia actively participate in the band’s work now, it’s a big collective.”
The jailed women are appealing against their sentences.
Following the verdict, Russian police said they were actively searching for other members of the group who had taken part in the cathedral protest.
But they gave no names and did not say how many were being sought.
The jailed women said their performance of a “punk prayer” on 21 February in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral had been to highlight the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin.
Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church.
The three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot accused of hooliganism have been jailed for two years after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.
Judge Marina Syrova convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had “crudely undermined social order”.
The women say the protest, in February, was directed at the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support for Vladimir Putin.
The US, UK and EU all criticized the sentences as “disproportionate”.
Prosecutors had been seeking a three-year jail sentence for the women.
Judge Marina Syrova said Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had offended the feelings of Orthodox believers and shown a “complete lack of respect”.
“Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism – in other words, a grave violation of public order,” Judge Marina Syrova said.
Along with other members of their band, the women staged a flashmob-style performance of their song close to the altar in the cathedral on 21 February.
Judge Marina Syrova convicted Pussy Riot members of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred
Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church – its leader Patriarch Kirill said it amounted to blasphemy.
Vladimir Putin was elected for a third term as president two weeks later.
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, watching Friday’s proceedings from inside a glass-walled cage in the courtroom, smiled as the widely predicted conviction was announced.
The judge then took three hours to read the verdict, before handing down “two years deprivation of liberty in a penal colony” for each defendant.
“Considering the nature and degree of the danger posed by what was done, the defendants’ correction is possible only through an actual punishment,” Judge Marina Surova said.
One man in the courtroom shouted “shame” at the sentencing, and there were chants and whistles from the band’s supporters outside.
Nadezdha Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said: “Russia’s image was quite scary even before [this]. What happened now is a clear sign that Russia is moving towards becoming more like China or North Korea.”
Opposition leader Alexei Navalny added: “They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge. This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin.”
The defendants’ lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, said they would not appeal to President Vladimir Putin for a pardon. However, there will be a legal appeal against the verdict.
Amnesty International said the ruling was a “bitter blow” for freedom of expression in Russia.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the UK’s Foreign Office criticized the severity of the sentences.
US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”
On Thursday, Nadezdha Tolokonnikova had said she was “not bitter about being in jail”. But, speaking through her lawyer on Twitter, she said: “Politically, I am furious.”
“Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country,” she said.
The women have been detained for the past five months.
Associated Press news agency said a number of protesters had been arrested outside the court before the sentencing was announced, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov and opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov.
There were also pro-Pussy Riot protests in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted “Freedom”, and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square.
Other shows of support took place in Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona.
The band has also had vocal support from artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna, and from politicians.
Critics of the band have also been demonstrating, saying the stunt was an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Igor Kim from Moscow said: “Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics.”
Valentina Ivanova, a retired doctor, told Reuters: “What they did showed disrespect towards everything, and towards believers first of all.”
One protester outside court in Moscow simply shouted: “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell.”