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Russia feminist rock group appeals conviction to Europe rights court

Russian feminist rock band Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday filed a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] challenging their conviction. They contend [Telegraph report] that their conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]: the freedom of speech, the right to liberty and security, the prohibition of torture and the right to a fair trial. Maria Alekhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Natalia Tolokonnikova were given two-year prison sentences after they were convicted [JURIST report] in August of hooliganism in connection with "guerrilla performance" of a protest song in February at the altar of downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Last month court denied [JURIST report] the band's appeal of an Internet ban on their videos. The court ruled that the band's videos questioning the role of religion in Russian government was "extremist" and President Vladimir Putin argued that the ban is protecting the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox population. During the same month a court denied [JURIST report] a sentencing deferral for band member Alekhina, despite her having a young child. In October Alekhina and Tolokonnikova were transferred to separate regional prisons [JURIST report] generally reserved for dangerous criminals to serve their two-year sentences. Earlier in October Samutsevich was freed on appeal [JURIST report] because she did not actually participate in the protest song, and she vowed to take the band's case to the ECHR on charges that the Russian government had illegally detained them and also violated the rock group's right to free speech.

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