A quick follow up on three women who are likely the world's most famous political prisoners: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich; members of the Russian punk collective Pussy Riot, who were recently sentenced to two years in prison for their “punk prayer” performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral last February.
Or maybe not. Russia's Human Rights Ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, said he is ready to appeal the two year sentence unless it is commuted by higher authorities (i.e. President Vladimir Putin). “If the sentence stays as is, the ombudsman has a right to appeal it at higher levels, which I will consider,” Lukin said in an interview with RIA Novosti, adding that he considered the group's cathedral performance “not as a crime but an administrative misdemeanor.”
It is hard to tell what affect, if any, the Ombudsman's comments will have on the sentence handed down against the three women, who have already served six months in jail awaiting their trial earlier this month. Commuting their sentences though could give Putin, who before the trial said that the judge should not act “too harshly” towards the women, a chance to appear as a benevolent ruler while also negating a verdict that has led to harsh criticism of Russia from the international community.
Of course, another comment made by Lukin is an indication of why Pussy Riot is unlikely to serve as a rallying point for Russia's political opposition; Lukin called the cathedral performance “I consider it tactless and silly.” Public opinion polls have shown that a majority of Russians hold similar views of the Pussy Riot protest.
Meanwhile, over at The Mantle this week, I talk about why the Pussy Riot trial isn't the most important political prosecution in Russia today.