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Pussy Riot Nominated for European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize

September 28, 2012

Russian political punk band Pussy Riot was nominated on September 25 for the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Five candidates were nominated for the human rights award at a joint meeting of the foreign affairs, development, and human rights committees. Werner Schultz, MEP from Germany, proposed the nomination which was backed by a total of 46 MEPs. He stated the group had been able to “attract international attention to a state which is moving further and further away from western values.”

Three members of the group have been imprisoned since their August 17 conviction on charges of hooliganism and blasphemy after they interrupted a service in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February with a profane song condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin. Protests against the conviction have erupted around the world, and both the European Union and the United States have expressed their concern about the sentence of two years’ imprisonment for the group members.

Since the nomination, Russia’s parliamentary speaker Sergei Naryshkin has pulled out of a planned speech to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe next Monday, stating he did not feel he would receive a fair hearing. On Tuesday, the assembly is due to vote on a resolution critical of Russia’s legal system and elections, and Russia is also expected to be criticized for the treatment of Pussy Riot members. Naryshkin has accused assembly members of “Russophobia”, and stated in televised remarks that he would address the assembly only when conditions were right.

The Sakharov prize was created in 1988 in honor of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and is awarded annually. Former prize winners include South African President Nelson Mandela and in 2011 the award went to five activists in the Arab Spring. Other nominees this year include Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist from Belarus, as well as two Iranian democracy campaigners and three members of Rwanda’s opposition. The prize will be awarded on December 12 in Strasbourg.

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