Two members of Pussy Riot released under new amnesty laws

[JURIST] Two members of the feminist rock group Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder, JURIST news archive], Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were released from prison on Monday after the Russian government's approval of sweeping new amnesty laws [414081-6, 414076-6, 414060-6, 414142-6 texts, PDF, in Russian]. The laws were approved unanimously by the Russian Duma's [official website] lower house of parliament and adopted last Thursday. The amnesty provided would free [AP report] about 2,000 minors, invalids, veterans, pregnant women and mothers, and the law specifically mentions the charges of hooliganism and participating in mass riots. Although the amendments went into effect last week, it could take up to six months to carry them out completely. These amendments may also result in the release of several Greenpeace activists detained by Russia's government [JURIST report] who were charged with piracy last October. Russia has experienced backlash in the media over its criminalization of the promotion of homosexuality [JURIST report], which has drawn particular scrutiny because of the upcoming winter Olympic games. The new amnesty laws have been criticized as an attempt to improve government's image [NYT report] before the Sochi Olympics.

The Russian Supreme Court ordered the review [JURIST report] of the case against the two women earlier this month. The imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot has generated significant international attention. In September Tolokonnikova, launched a hunger strike [JURIST report] in protest of living conditions and death threats from the deputy head of the prison in which she is serving her two-year sentence. In August Samutsevich filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against her former defense lawyer, Violetta Volkova, for making and posting defamatory statements about her in the press and on social networking sites during the trial of other Pussy Riot members. A month prior, a regional court in Russia denied an appeal [JURIST report] by Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova [JURIST reports] had their paroles denied in May. The Pussy Riot case has generated much criticism and debate [JURIST op-eds] among scholars.

 

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