Medvedev says Pussy Riot members should be freed

Wednesday 12 September 2012 23.43
Pussy Riot members were sentenced to two years in jail
Pussy Riot members were sentenced to two years in jail

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said he thinks that three female members of punk band Pussy Riot should be freed.

The band members had been sentenced to two years in jail last month for a political protest in a Moscow cathedral.

Mr Medvedev appeared to be trying to disassociate himself from the jail terms which were condemned as excessive by the West as well as by liberal Russians.

When president, Mr Medvedev styled himself as a liberal reformer, and though he handed the presidency back to Vladimir Putin he has made it clear he wants to remain in politics and perhaps even return to the presidency one day.

The three band members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred on 17 August after belting out a profanity-laced song criticising Mr Putin on the altar of Moscow's main cathedral in February.

They have been in jail since March and their appeal is due to start  on 1 October.

"The prolongation of their incarceration in the conditions of jail seems to me to be unproductive," Mr Medvedev said in televised remarks.

"A suspended sentence, taking into account time they have already spent (in jail), would be entirely sufficient," he added.

However, Mr Medvedev criticised the women, saying he was "sickened by what they did, by their looks, by the hysteria which followed what had happened".

He said prison is "very, very strict" punishment as a rule.

Mr Medvedev emphasised he was expressing his personal view only and was not seeking to influence the case.

The band members had faced up to seven years in prison, but Mr Putin said during the trial that they should not be judged "too harshly" and prosecutors subsequently requested three-year sentences; they were sentenced to two years each in the end.

In a television interview last week, Mr Putin declined to comment on whether he believed the sentences were fitting, saying he was not interfering in the case.

But he suggested the band had forced its "indecent" name into public discourse and said abuses committed against the Russian Orthodox Church and other faiths in the Soviet era meant "the state is obliged to protect the feelings of believers.

Keywords: russia, pussy riot
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