Lawyer Irina Khrunova on the latest court decision in the Pussy Riot case

posted 7 Apr 2014, 09:18 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Apr 2014, 09:20 ]
4 April 2014 

Source: (info
On 4th April 2014 the Presidium of the Moscow City Court examined a supervisory complaint concerning the sentence served on members of the punk group Pussy Riot. The Presidium reduced the punishment by one month, from two years imprisonment to one year eleven months, and dismissed the motive of religious hatred from the sentence. 

Lawyer, legal analyst of the Agora Human Rights Association, Irina Khrunova, representing the interests of the group’s members, commented on the court’s decision. 

“There were two key moments which told us that the sentence handed down would be changed,” lawyer Irina Khrunova said. “The first was the position of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, and particularly of Judge Magomed Magomedov, who identified a number of procedural infringements in the examination of the criminal case and, most of all, in the setting of the punishment by the Moscow City Court. It was he who initiated the supervisory proceedings in the Presidium of the Moscow City Court. 

The second reason, in our opinion, is more important. It is the quick reaction of the European Court of Human Rights to the full application made just over a year ago. In December last year the Court demanded that the Russian authorities outline their position. Taking the circumstances of the matter into account, the Ministry of Justice, which represents Russia in the European Court of Human Rights, wished very much to see a reduction in the punishment and the dismissal of any indication of religious hatred. Obviously, the authorities will use these arguments in their position in Strasburg. 

Today’s decision does not deprive us of grounds to have the case examined at the European Court of Human Rights as we allege unlawful criminal prosecution for political criticism in principle. With the well-founded dismissal of any indication of religious hatred, which all three women asserted repeatedly from the very beginning, the case remains purely political. 

The unwillingness of judges to reach a verdict of not guilty is understandable. It was impossible under the present circumstances in the country. After today’s decision the case will finally be passed to the European Court of Human Rights. It is important to note that the European Court has permitted as a third party in the case a number of NGOs – a group of American conservatives at the Alliance Defending Freedom, and also Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Article 19 and the English organisation Media Legal Defence Initiative. 

Thus the Pussy Riot case may become a battle between supporters of liberal and conservative values. This is no longer just the story of a performance in a cathedral, it is a key moment in defining the borders of freedom of speech and traditional values.” 

Translated by Elisabeth Wright