July 17, 2018 / 11:47 AM / in 3 months

European rights court condemns Russia over Pussy Riot ruling

PARIS (Reuters) - The European Court of Human Rights condemned Russia on Tuesday for its treatment of 2012 protests by the Pussy Riot punk band in a Moscow cathedral, saying the band members had been subjected to humiliating treatment and judged too severely.

Members of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" (L-R) Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sit in a glass-walled cage before a court hearing in Moscow October 10, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

The anti-Kremlin group are known for a series of high-profile protests including most recently activists who ran onto the pitch at Sunday’s World Cup final.

Three activists were prosecuted in Russian courts for performing a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in protest against President Vladimir Putin six years ago.

Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spent nearly two years in prison.

The court, which ordered Russia to pay a total of 48,760 euros (£43,360) in damages and judicial expenses, said in its ruling that it “accepted that a reaction to breaching the rules of conduct in a place of religious worship might have been warranted.”

“However, it found that sentencing them to imprisonment for simply having worn brightly coloured clothes, waved their arms and kicked their legs around and used strong language, without analysing the lyrics of their song or the context of their performance, had been exceptionally severe.”

Russia’s Justice Ministry said on its website that the ruling had not yet taken effect and that it had three months to decide if it would appeal against it.

Russia has been angered in the past by a number of decisions by the Strasbourg-based court, which polices the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court said Russia had also violated the convention’s prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment.

It said the activists “had had to suffer the humiliation of being permanently exposed in a glass dock during their hearings,” adding that the glass dock and security had prevented the band members from communicating with their lawyers without being overheard during the trial.

A Moscow court on Monday handed down 15-day jail sentences on four members of the group for interrupting Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Croatia when they ran onto the pitch wearing fake police uniforms.

In March, the RIA news agency cited unidentified government sources as saying Russia was considering withdrawing from the Convention and ending cooperation with the European Court of Human Rights.

The reason for considering withdrawing from the court was because of the fact that many of its decisions ran counter to Russia’s interests, the sources were cited as saying.

Reporting by Gilbert Reilhac and Ingrid MelanderAdditional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Vladimir Soldatkin in MoscowEditing by William Maclean

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