Pussy Riot member Maria (Masha) Alyokhina sentenced by Moscow district court

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MOSCOW. Today Maria (Masha) Alyokhina, a key figure in the world-renowned feminist protest art collective Pussy Riot and a member of Artists at Risk (AR)’s International Advisory Board was sentenced to one year of “restricted freedom” by the Moscow district court. Her conviction hinges on a tweet she put out in relation to large demonstrations last year against the Russian government’s treatment of pro-democracy figure Alexei Navalny.

From Masha Alekhina’s Facebook

AR strongly condemns the ruling, which is nothing short of arbitrary and authoritarian. It blatantly criminalizes and infringes upon the fundamental rights of free speech and expression. It comes on the heels of her pretrial house arrest of almost 6 months with further added arbitrary administrative detention for twice 15 days, consecutively, on trumped up charges. 

According to the court, the tweet that led to her arrest and eventual sentencing, in which she simply stated that she was looking forward to seeing friends at the public demonstration, “incited violations of sanitary restrictions” in place because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The verdict was delivered at a closed hearing. “Why should you close the courts? … The scariest things are things that happen in silence”, wrote Alekhina in a Facebook post shortly after being sentenced, today. 

AR condemns in the strongest possible terms the weaponization of public health regulations to persecute artists, activists and other political dissidents. Over the last two years, this strategy has become the hallmark of authoritarian regimes around the world trying to silence critics by instrumentalising the Covid-19 pandemic to their repressive ends.

This is Alyokhina’s second criminal case in a decade. She was previously sentenced to two years in prison for “hooliganism” for her famous “punk prayer” with Nadya Tolokinnnikova and Katya Samutsevich in Moscow’s central cathedral. Her vocal activism around environmental and social issues like LGBT rights have made her a prominent target in Putin’s authoritarian Russia.

Still, Masha remains in excellent humour and defiant; “A cage made out of fear is worse than a cage made of glass and iron, I know that because I have been in the latter.”

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