14 Dec 2018 20:48

Russian Church satisfied that ECHR found Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer' unlawful

MOSCOW. Dec 14 (Interfax) - The Moscow Patriarchate has praised the fact that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found the performance by the feminist punk band Pussy Riot at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow as unlawful.

Last week, the ECHR declined to review its judgement on the case of Pussy Riot, under which Russia has to pay compensations to three band members for violating their rights.

The Russian Orthodox Church initially described the ECHR decision as "a blow to legal protection of religious freedom."

Meanwhile, Vakhtang Kipshidze, the deputy head of the Russian Orthodox Church's Synodal Department for the Church's Relations with Society and Mass Media, suggested looking at the matter from a different perspective.

"An unpleasant surprise for the domestic lovers of Pussy Riot is that the ECHR has recognized the application of the sanctions as legitimate," Kipshidze told journalists in Moscow on Friday.

"The ECHR's assertion that such behavior may be seen as offensive by a large number of people, including believers, may come as a revelation to many considering themselves experts in democratic justice," Kipshidze said.

"Indeed, the European Court has granted the application by the band members, resolving that the punishment was disproportionate to the offence they committed, but this is of secondary importance to the Church compared to the court's principled position that such performances are unlawful," Kipshidze said.

The Russian Church did not insist on this or that type of punishment for Pussy Riot members but only maintained that its members' behavior was unacceptable and unlawful, Kipshidze said. "This is precisely what was confirmed by such an authoritative international institution as the European Court of Human Rights," he said.

In February 2012, five young women staged what they described as a punk prayer including political statements at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. A video of this performance was posted online. Police later detained three participants in the stunt: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich.

Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court sentenced the three to two years in a general security penitentiary for disorderly conduct in August 2012.

In October 2012, the Moscow City Court replaced the sentence given to Samutsevich by a suspended one and freed her in the courtroom and upheld the sentence on Alekhina and Tolokonnikova. Their sentence expired in March 2014.