Paul McCartney, Elton John, 100 Other Stars Appeal for Pussy Riot Release

1:54 AM PST 07/23/2013 by Nick Holdsworth
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Pussy Riot members.

Stars including Pete Townshend, Madonna and Adele offer words of support to the jailed punk rockers while urging Russian authorities to grant them parole.

MOSCOW – Paul McCartney, Elton John, Pete Townshend, Bryan Adams, Madonna, Adele and groups that include U2, The Clash and Coldplay are among more than 100 top international musicians calling for the release this week of the two jailed members of Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

In an Amnesty International open letter of support for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, the stars urge Russian authorities to release the two young women, who are both applying for parole this week.

The parole hearings Wednesday for Alekhina, 25, and on Friday for Tolokonnikova, 23, are appeals against earlier decisions denying early release from two-year sentences handed down last August by a Moscow court.

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In the open letter the stars remind both young women that “around the world people are both still thinking of you and working for your release.”

Noting that “many parents feel your anguish at being separated from your children,” the letter continues: “While understanding the sensitivities of protesting in a place of worship, we ask that the Russian authorities review these harsh sentences, so that you may return to your children, your families and your lives.

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“The right to freedom of expression and dissent is a legitimate one and essential in any kind of democracy.”

The sentences handed down to the two young women -- convicted of hooliganism and dispatched to what Amnesty describes as “notoriously brutal prison colonies” -- have stoked controversy internationally.

Amnesty says both women are prisoners of conscience and there is “serious concern for their safety.”

In a separate letter to Russia’s Prosecutor General, Amnesty says: 
”I call on you to ensure that Alekhina and Tolokonnikova are immediately and unconditionally released. While they remain incarcerated, the two women must not be ill-treated by prison staff or inmates, and they must be allowed regular contact with their families and legal teams.”

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Last week Alekhina said she was beaten by guards while being transferred from one location to another. Penal colony authorities have admitted restraining her but deny harming her.

Both young women have refused to admit guilt and remain defiant while in custody -- among the reasons authorities have denied them early release.

Tolokonnikova has a young daughter who is being cared for by the girl's father, Pyotr Verzilov, in Moscow.

The women were convicted after staging a "punk prayer" inside Russia’s main Orthodox cathedral, Moscow’s Christ the Savior, in February 2012 that included comments directed against President Vladimir Putin and his ties to the Orthodox church.

A third member of the loose collective, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on probation last year.

 

 

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