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Freedom of speech in Russia

Three young women from the feminist punk group "Pussy Riot" are being detained by Russian authorities for performing a protest song in a cathedral in February 2012, as a part of a protest movement against Vladimir Putin.

“Pussy Riot” is a Russian feminist punk-rock collective that stages politically provocative impromptu performances in Moscow, on subjects such as the status of women in Russia, and most recently against the presidential election campaign of Mr. Putin. The collective is made up of about 10 performers, and about 15 people who handle the technical work of shooting and editing their videos, which are posted to the Internet.

On March 3rd, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, two alleged members of Pussy Riot, were arrested by Russian authorities and accused of “hooliganism”, for which they face up to 7 years in prison. Both arrested women at first denied being members of the group and started a hunger strike in protest against being held in jail away from their young children. On March 16th another woman, Ekaterina Samutsevitch, who had earlier been questioned as a witness in this case, was similarly arrested and charged.

If found guilty, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29, could be jailed for up to 7 years.

All three members of Pussy Riot are recognized as political prisoners by the Union of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (SPP). Amnesty International named them prisoners of conscience due to "the severity of the response of the Russian authorities" and has started an online petition to ask the Russian authorities to drop all charges and release them.

The action against "Pussy Riot" echoes recent acts by the Russian authorities' that have tried to limit demonstrations and free speech in a country that is notorious for silencing its vocal critics such as Anna Politkovskaya and Sergei Magnitsky. Justice for Sergei, a movie about Mr. Magnitsky, won the Cinema for Peace Justice award in 2012.

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