Monday, April 21, 2014


Russia

Pussy Rioters Freed After Detention In Sochi

Former Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) and Maria Alyokhina (file photo)
Former Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) and Maria Alyokhina (file photo)
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By RFE/RL
Two founding members of the performance art collective Pussy Riot have been freed after they were detained by police in Sochi during the Olympic Games.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were taken into custody early on February 18. Tolokonnikova told RFE/RL that police told the pair they were suspects in a theft at a hotel.

Sochi police said the two were questioned, and once investigators determined they had committed no crime, both were released. Police said no charges would be filed.

Tolokonikkova said she and Alyokhina have been detained three times in the three days they have been in Sochi.

"On the 16th [of February] we were detained for 10 hours at a police station," she said. "Yesterday [February 17] we were detained at the FSB [Federal Security Service], today we have been detained as well and I was very painfully hit."

Although Tolokonnikova and other members of Pussy Riot had managed "to stage a couple of performances" in Sochi, she intimated that the Russian authorities were doing their utmost to hinder such activities.

"Unfortunately, I must say that it is virtually impossible for an opposition activist to be in Sochi," she said. "They simply prevent us from moving around the city. Our cars kept being stopped by traffic police. Once we decided to switch to public transport they came up with a new excuse [to stop us], which is to bring criminal charges against us. Thus voicing any dissent against the policies of [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is completely ruled out in this city."


ALSO READ: Full Interview With Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

Russian human rights activist Semyon Simonov said several other activists were also detained by police on February 18.
 
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released under an amnesty in December after spending nearly two years in detention.

They were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing an anti-Putin punk song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012.
 
Since being released from prison, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have pledged to work for prisoners' rights.

Tolokonnikova's husband and Pussy Riot collaborator Pyotr Verzilov told journalists after their release on February 18 that "they came to Sochi -- members of Pussy Riot, Nadia, Masha, and other members of the group -- they came to produce a new Pussy Riot video called 'Putin will Teach You How to Love the Motherland.' This is the official purpose of the trip, although it [has to be underlined] that at the time of their detention they were not performing or doing anything that can be considered other than strolling in a park."

He echoed the women's claims that they had been mistreated by police.

"In this police station [in Sochi] they were put on the floor and beaten," Verzilov said. "Physical force was used against them when they refused to be questioned without the presence of a lawyer who was on his way to this police station. So before [the lawyer arrived] they were beaten -- that includes Nadia [Tolokonnikova], Masha [Alyokhina] and several other [girls]."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP

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