Wien, 17. August 2012 Press release

Waldner: No understanding for a disproportionally harsh sentence

State Secretary expresses his disappointment over the severe punishment in the case of the Russian artist group “Pussy Riot”.

Vienna, 17 August 2012 – “Sentencing the band members to two years in prison is a completely disproportionate punishment in view of the charges against them. A peaceful art action cannot be considered a crime leading to several years in prison. Criticism is an important element of a vibrant democracy”, said State Secretary Waldner commenting on the court ruling announced today against the three members of the Russian punk group “Pussy Riot”.

“As someone who has campaigned in favour of the arts and the interests of artists in Austria and around the world, I am particularly taken aback by this decision”, said Waldner. “I reiterate my call to the Russian authorities to respect the human right to the freedom of expression. Based on our understanding of the freedom of expression and freedom of the arts, the reaction of the political leadership to an art action, albeit provocative, cannot be to bring young female artists before court and threaten them with several years in prison. This sentence is a violation of the right to the free expression of opinion under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights“, emphasized the State Secretary.

The Russian artist group had sung a „punk prayer“ against the re-election of President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral on 21 February 2012. Since their arrest in March, the three band members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich had been held in investigative custody. They were accused of violating article 213, paragraph 2 of the Russian Criminal Code („hooliganism“) for their action, which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years.

“In view of the personal situation of the three defendants, I had hoped that they would be released immediately. Especially for two of the defendants, who have already been separated from their children since being taken in custody in March, their imprisonment and today’s sentence mean a great emotional distress“, Waldner concluded.

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