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Russia: Court set for ruling in Pussy Riot human rights case

Tomorrow, Pussy Riot activists will find out if they have won the backing of Strasbourg judges in their human rights challenge to Russia.

The Europea Court of Human Rights will deliver its judgement on Tuesday 17 July in the case Mariya Alekhina and Others v. Russia (no. 38004/12).

The applicants, Mariya Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, are Russian nationals who were born in 1988, 1989, and 1982 respectively and live in Moscow. They are members of the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot, who give impromptu performances of their songs in various public areas dressed in brightly coloured balaclavas and dresses.

The case concerns their conviction and imprisonment for attempting to perform one of their protest songs in a Moscow cathedral in 2012. The courts ruled in particular that their performance had been offensive and banned access to video recordings they had subsequently downloaded onto the Internet because they were “extremist.”

The applicants make a number of complaints under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c) and (d) (right to a fair trial / right to legal assistance of own choosing / right to obtain attendance and examination of witnesses) about the conditions of their transportation to and from their court hearings and at trial, alleging that they were not only humiliating and intimidating, but hampered them from consulting their lawyers.

In particular, they were transported to and from their court hearings in overcrowded, poorly ventilated prison vans, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees C.

Furthermore, they were kept in a glass dock in the courtroom surrounded by heavy security with a guard dog and were only able to speak with their lawyers through a small window one metre off the ground.

All of that was in full view of the public, including the national and international media.

They also complain under Article 5 § 3 (right to liberty and security / entitlement to release pending trial) that there were no valid reasons to warrant remanding them in custody.

Lastly, under Article 10 (freedom of expression), they complain about their detention and conviction, alleging that those measures were excessive in relation to their conduct. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova also complain about the courts banning access to their videos on the Internet.

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