Pussy Riot sentence raises some questions - presidential human rights council

The Russian presidential human rights council said the punishment given to the members of the punk group Pussy Riot is too harsh.

"This criminal case also raises other questions about the observance of the principles of fair justice in a democratic law-governed state," members of the presidential human rights council said in a statement released in Moscow on Friday. "For example, why did the defendants have to listen to the sentence being read in handcuffs for several hours? Why were all of the defendants given the same prison term, although two of them have young children? Why did the defendants not get a suspended prison sentence or at least a deferral until their children become reach full age?" the document says.

"Why is the punishment much more severe than the punishment for blasphemy according to the laws of the Russian Empire? And why do we have to wait for the European Court of Human Rights to answer all these questions? Especially bearing in mind that we know the answers very well," the statement says. "We are convinced that civil society has a right to insist on the supremacy of the truth and mercy in the Russian criminal justice system," the statement says.

"Moral condemnation of the stunt, which violated the rules governing behavior in religious establishments, does not, however, answer the questions about the legality of their sentence and the justice and humanity of the punishment given to them. Society is not indifferent to situations when criminal law is applied to actions that only lead to administrative liability by law," the document says.

Masked members of the Pussy Riot punk band staged an anti-Putin performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012. The action triggered a broad public response and three female singers were detained on hooliganism charges.

The Khamovnichesky District Court in Moscow sentenced the three Pussy Riot girls to two years in a penal colony on August 17, 2012.

Human rights defenders said that the biggest punishment the singers deserved was an administrative penalty for petty hooliganism. Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience.

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