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  • Russian "Telephone Justice" for Pussy Riot

    Members of the Russian female punk band Pussy Riot, who have become international celebrities as victims of Russian “justice,” on August 17 received two-year jail terms for acts of “hooliganism” against the Russian church.

    They will be serving their sentence in the allegedly most “lenient incarceration” available, not a particularly reassuring prospect, one would think. But the fact is that this case is not about “hooliganism” at all but about Pussy Riot taking on Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin. What it also reveals is the increasingly reactionary and statist nature of Russia under Putin.

    The protest Pussy Riot was found guilty of actually involved no actual music at the time. The masked ladies went into the Church of Christ the Savior and danced before the altar, using many expletives but not Putin’s name. At the time, no one (beyond the inconvenienced congregation) seemed to mind much. Later, however, Pussy Riot made a music video of their “performance” that included anti-Putin lyrics.

    This action made the courts listen to political pressure to prosecute, or—in the inimitable Russian phrase—engage in “telephone justice.” According to Nikolas Gvosdev of the Naval War College, speaking at the Nixon Center on Wednesday, more than 90 percent of Russian judges today are ex-police or ex-prosecutors, and less than 1 percent former defense attorneys. In Russian courts, not surprisingly, about 97 percent of defendants are found guilty.

    While the Pussy Riot case has caused consternation abroad, in Russia, outrage has focused on the band’s behavior. Only a minority supports the group, whose indisputably distasteful behavior in a church has fragmented the support it might otherwise have had. One poll suggested that 57 percent are in favor of the court’s verdict and just 27 percent against. Thus, the concept fundamental to the U.S. First Amendment—that even distasteful speech is protected by the Constitution—has no counterpart in Russia.

    What the case also reveals is that the separation of church and state in Russia is becoming increasingly tenuous. The Russian Orthodox Church claims to be the leader of civil society, even though only 2 percent of Russians are regular church-goers. As a result of the Pussy Riot event, the church looks weak and more dependent on the state.

    After the group’s five-month incarceration without charge, farcical trial, and disproportionate sentence, international pressure should be exerted to force the Russian “justice system” to make the punishment fit the crime.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to Russian "Telephone Justice" for Pussy Riot

    1. surfbag says:

      Ultimately, truth over lies, good over evil.

    2. @kcn1207 says:

      I have friends who travel to Russia every year on mission trips to minister to the kids in orphanages. There is no evangelizing allowed. It is a very subdued environment; fear of the authorities is very real.

    3. Pete Houston says:

      Exactly what did they do that does not look like a bunch of hooligans. Were they invited or accepted by the church to perform for the participants of the church service. Even freedom of speech has some limits. The people in the church should be free to have their mass without being subjected to a group
      of hooligans swearing at the state or whatever. If only 2% of the population goes to church, then they picked a place to protest with limited exposure. Maybe they should have performed at a Muslim Mosque and see if they got a better response to their behavior.

    4. Oscar Brown says:

      Without a written Constitution and rights given by our Creator, there is no such thing as "rights". Russia has a long way to go and isn't going to get there until Russians demand their freedoms and make it stick.
      Don't hold your breath.

    5. KAHR50 says:

      Take heed Aaerica – this is in your future if we continue on the political path of the last 3 1/2 + years.

      Say bad things about hte President and go to jail!

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