Pussy Riot Members Free Under Putin Amnesty!

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina was freed from a prison in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia under amnesty granted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. She and fellow Pussy Riot member  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had three months remaining on their two year sentence for

hooliganism motivated by religious hatred

stemming from their “punk prayer” protest of Putin’s policies at Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow’s main cathedral. The band played a song critical of the support given Putin by Orthodox Church patriarch Kirill I.

A third member of the punk rock band, Yekaterina Samutsevich, had her sentence overturned on appeal.

Tolokonnikova was released later on Monday and told CNN

she felt that the amnesty was a publicity stunt to bolster the government’s image before it hosts the Winter Olympics in February.

Her husband Pyotr Verzilov  said:

Two months out of the almost two years that the girls have served is not much. So the effect of this amnesty for Maria and Nadezhda is not really felt..President Putin obviously used this amnesty option to (brighten) up his image before the Olympic games.

Pussy Riot’s future as a band is unclear.

Putin’s amnesty program, which is said to celebrate 20 years of the Russian Constitution, is timed nicely with the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. Greenpeace activists are among the prisoners who will be given amnesty.

Pussy Riot To Be Freed: Amnesty for Russian Punk Band, Greenpeace Protestors and Others

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are being freed under the amnesty bill being submitted by Vladimir Putin to the Duma, the Russian parliament, on Monday December 9, to mark the Russian constitution’s 20th anniversary on Thursday. Nadya’s husband Pyotr Verzilov confirmed the rumors to The Voice Project:

It’s from the Kremlin and official already, they will be freed. We do not know yet when this will happen, because it is unclear when the bill will be voted by the Duma and how fast it will be applied to prisons – could be from 2 weeks to 2 months until they are freed.

The Voice Project also reports that Nadya’s father Andrei has also been able to confirm this from “reliable sources.” Nadya was moved to Siberia in November after protesting conditions and going on a hunger strike at her previous penal colony in Morodovia. She is now hospitalized in a Siberian prison facility, Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1.

The BBC reports that Putin may also free the Greenpeace Arctic 30 campaigners currently on bail and facing trial on (reduced) charges of hooliganism, as well as some of the opposition activists involved in unrest in May 2012.

This all feels like a Putin move to make Russia seem less yucky-looking in the buildup to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Simone Baumann’s film Putin’s Game, documenting charges of threats, corruption, and environmental damage is screening throughout Europe. Pussy Riot jailed, Greenpeace activists facing trial, “gay propaganda” banned and LGBTQ beaten, Elton John (finally) speaking out about anti-gay discrimination in Russia. From the stage. While performing a concert in Moscow. Add in a boycott of Smirnoff vodka and Putin had to do something.

In a surprising move, NBC has named the New Yorker’s editor and a former Moscow correspondent for The Washington Post, David Remnick as a guest correspondent:

Remnick said NBC had guaranteed him editorial independence with his commentary, including such politically charged issues as gay rights and the relationship between Russia and Ukraine. “There is nothing in the world — and I know they don’t intend to hinder me in this way — where I would not be honest in my analysis,” Remnick said. “It would be a waste of everyone’s integrity and time if otherwise.”

Meanwhile, it could be a very happy new year for Pussy Riot, Greenpeace, and other jailed Russian activists. (more…)

Peter Tosh’s Music Joins Rights Campaigns

Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday Aug 9, the estate of reggae artist Peter Tosh is joining with Amnesty International in a campaign to draw attention to the plight of Mexican human rights defender Lydia Cacho.  Amnesty is offering a free download of Tosh’s anthem, “Get Up Stand Up,” to people taking action in her case at http://bit.ly/standupforlydia. Cacho, a Cancún-based journalist and human rights defender, has received numerous death threats by phone and email, and there are serious fears for her safety.

Tosh–the most outspoken of Jamaica’s reggae pioneers – helped popularize  “Get Up, Stand Up” (co-written with Bob Marley) which has become a standard at Amnesty International rallies and at civil and human rights fundraisers, large and small, around the world. 2011 marks the human rights organization’s 50th anniversary

In the weeks to come, Tosh’s music will also be used in campaigns from Greenpeace International, (now in its 40th year), Students for a Sensible Drug Policy and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Students for a Sensible Drug Policy will use Tosh’s “Legalize It” in efforts to support new federal legalization legislation introduced in Congress in July.

The union of Tosh’s music and  activist campaigns follows the release of the expanded Legacy Edition reissues of Tosh’s seminal solo albums Legalize It (1976) and Equal Rights (1977), both available online.