Kremlin's rights council blasts Pussy Riot verdict
Moscow: The Russian presidential human rights council is questioning the guilty verdict and two-year prison sentences against three members of punk provocateurs Pussy Riot.
The council said in a statement late yesterday that "criminal law was used to deal with actions which entail administrative liability only" in the case. Members also questioned why the court did not impose suspended sentences on two of the three women who have small children.
Council members expressed dismay over a decision to keep Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich hand-cuffed in a bullet-proof glass cage during the hearing of the verdict.
"We are confident that the civil society has the right to demand that Russian justice be governed by the truth and mercy," the council said.
The council is an independent advisory body appointed by the president and its recommendations are not binding. All of its members were appointed under former President Dmitry Medvedev.
The group is up for a reshuffle since some of its most critical members have resigned, saying that they don't want to work under President Vladimir Putin. The new council could be less critical, but has had very little sway over government decisions.
The three women were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred earlier this month after performing a "punk prayer" against Putin in Moscow's main cathedral. The verdict caused protests and outrage both in Russia and abroad.
The women on Monday filed an appeal of the verdict which is expected to be heard within the following 10 days.
Meanwhile, the band said at least two of its members have fled Russia to avoid arrest.