Anti-Putin punk band stays in prison | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 21.06.2012
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Anti-Putin punk band stays in prison

Protests from supporters didn't help as three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were remanded for another month in prison.

The three young musicians have already been in prison for four months. And they'll probably be there for quite some time yet. A court in Moscow has extended the investigative detention of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich for another month until July 24.

Their band, Pussy Riot, gave a flash-mob concert in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow a few weeks before the presidential election. It was a "punk prayer" with colorful masks and wild guitars, in which they called on the Mother of God to "chase Putin out." The performance caused a storm in the Russian Orthodox Church. As a result, many of the faithful came to court and demanded heavy penalties.

One of the young punks told journalists before the trial that the investigators had tried to threaten her into making a confession.

"They told me that if I didn't say I was guilty I would get three to four years in prison," said Tolokonnikova. She insists she's not guilty. The prosecutors have not responded to her accusations.

Human rights activists demand freedom for the band

A demonstration in front of the Russian embassy in Berlin

Pussy Riot has received support from activists in Germany

The human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) has criticized the court's ruling. "Investigative detention is not justified," said AI Germany's Russia expert, Peter Franck. He told DW that AI is demanding the band's "unconditional release."

AI has already declared the three women to be political prisoners and has set up a website to call for their release. The band's lawyers have taken the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Russian justice remains firm

The chairman of the Kremlin's own human rights commission, Mikhail Fedotov, and other prominent figures have also called for Pussy Riot's release. The popular actor and children's rights activist, Chulpan Khamatova, said in front of the court that the authorities should show mercy and let the women go back to their children.

"The punishment is disproportionate," she said as she stood with dozens of others. But the appeals to the court were of no avail. Several demonstrators were arrested in front of the building.

Alekhina in court behind bars

Alekhina and the others will probably remain behind bars for some time

The Russian justice system wants to show that it's remaining firm. The court decided to follow the prosecution's application for an extension of detention. If they are found guilty the musicians could face up to seven years in jail.

Patriarch Kirill under pressure

The Pussy Riot case has put increasing pressure on the Russian Orthodox patriarch, Kirill. The band's members say their anti-Putin performance was intended to draw attention to the close relations between the church leadership and the governing party, United Russia.

But that's not the real problem for Patriarch Kirill: he's got into trouble over a very expensive watch. His press office retouched a photo of the patriarch to remove the watch - but they forgot to remove it on the reflection in the highly polished table. A Moscow radio station has now awarded him its satire prize.

Author: Roman Goncharenko / mll
Editor: Andreas Illmer