Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev [official website, in Russian] called Wednesday for the release of members of the rock band Pussy Riot [RAPSI backgrounder; JURIST news archive], saying that time served has been severe enough and that anymore time in prison would be counterproductive. Medvedev also said, however, that he does not in any way condone [Moscow Times report] the actions of the group. His statements came at a meeting of United Russia, the political party which Medvedev heads. Although the prime minister's words do not control how the courts will decide in the group's upcoming appeal, their lawyer Nicholas Polozov told [transcript, in Russian] the Russian radio station Kommersant FM [media website, in Russian] he thinks Medvedev's opinion will be "crucial" to his clients' case. Pussy Riot's appeal [JURIST report] of their convictions will be heard by the Moscow City Court on October 1.
Last month the Russian Presidential Council on Human Rights [official website, in Russian] also questioned the legitimacy [JURIST report] of the court's verdict and sentence against Pussy Riot. They were convicted [JURIST report] the previous week on charges of "hooliganism" the court said was driven by religious hatred. The trial and conviction came after the group performed a protest song in February outside of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Pussy Riot's defense lawyers moved [JURIST report] earlier in August to have one of the judges recuse herself from the case, saying her decisions are politically motivated. Since the beginning of the trial [JURIST report], the group's lawyers and human rights groups have said the charges were politically motivated by President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] to discredit his opposition.