Global civil society network CIVICUS has expressed its shock at the two year sentence handed out to members of the Russian band Pussy Riot by a Moscow Court.
"Members of the band have clearly been victimised in what appears to be a blatant attack on free speech," says Netsanet Belay, policy and research director of CIVICUS. "The way in which the band members have been treated is designed to send a chilling message that democratic dissent is not welcome in Russia."
The three members of Pussy Riot have been handed out harsh sentences of two years' imprisonment on charges of "hooliganism" which the judge described as being motivated by "religious hatred". The band drew the attention of Russian authorities on 21 February this year after standing in front of the altar of Moscow's main cathedral and performing a song in protest at President Vladimir Putin.
Attack on freedom of speech
The trio were arrested in March and subsequently charged with hooliganism, as their protest act was deemed to have seriously undermined public authority. The band members have already been held for five months in pre-trial detention in what is widely viewed as an act of political retribution.
CIVICUS condemns the harsh sentences handed out to the band members as an attack on internationally recognised freedoms of speech and assembly. Over the course of the last few months, a raft of restrictive laws have been hurriedly passed through Russia's parliament to limit the key civil society freedoms of expression, association and assembly.
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