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Freed Pussy Riot Members Suing Russian Government

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The two freed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina (pictured), are to seek compensation for their 2012 imprisonment by suing the Russian government in the European court of human rights. The group’s imprisonment followed their controversial “punk prayer” protest in a Moscow cathedral.

The Guardian reports that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are both seeking €120,000 (AUD$170,000) in compensation and €10,000 (AUD$14,250) in court fees, after serving 21 months in prison following their pre-trial confinement. The two women were released in December 2013 after a nationwide prison amnesty, and are claiming that their prosecution violated their rights and amounted to torture.

Pavel Chikov, who heads the human rights legal group Agora and who is representing the two women, has explained why it is necessary to take this case to the European court of human rights. “They didn’t get fair trial here in Russia,” Chikov said.

“So they want to get it finally in the European court of human rights. 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.”

Chikov also noted why the two women believe their treatment was inhumane, saying, “The practice in Russia where people are put in glass or metal cages in the courtroom has nothing to do with a fair trial and violates the presumption of innocence.”

In June it was announced that Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who remain vocal critics of Russian president Vladimir Putin‘s regime, will speak at Sydney’s Festival Of Dangerous Ideas in August, discussing both their imprisonment experiences and their prisoners’ rights group Zona Prava (Zone of Rights). Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have pledged to give any compensation they receive to human rights organisations, including Zona Prava.

Three members of Pussy Riot were convicted for “hooliganism” in Russia in 2012 after the group’s famous “punk prayer” performance (below). The incident attracted worldwide media coverage, with Pussy Riot drawing support from fellow musicians like Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Bjork.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were disowned by other Pussy Riot members earlier this year, because they had allegedly forgotten about the “aspirations and ideals of our group”.

Watch: Pussy Riot’s ‘Punk Prayer’ – Mother of God, Drive Putin Out, in Christ the Saviour cathedral, Moscow (21/02/12)

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