Pussy Riot jailed for anti-Putin “punk prayer”

17/08/2012

Unbelievable… I wish. Unfortunately it’s all too believable: three members of the Russian band Pussy Riot have been jailed for two years, for an impromptu performance of an anti-Putin “punk prayer” in the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Officially, their crime was “hooliganism” motivated by religious hatred – “in other words, a grave violation of public order,” said Judge Marina Syrova.

The case against the three defendants – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich – has been dressed up as a “hate crime” against the Russian Orthodox Church. In her three hour summing up before verdict and sentencing, Judge Syrova said she had convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, and that the act had been one of blasphemy, not politics. She refuted the claim that the protest was political in nature, calling on the people to stop Putin from becoming president of Russia for a third term (which he achieved two weeks after the performance). The punk prayer was certainly obscene, but was a “brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out” – which Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill said amounted to blasphemy.

This was the prosecution’s strategy from the start, representing the performance as one of religious hatred rather than politically motivated. Even though the punk prayer clearly called for Putin to go, the government, politicians and members of the Orthodox hierarchy have repeatedly described it as blasphemy. Critics of Pussy Riot have been quoted by the BBC as saying it was “an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church”. “Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics,” posted one critic online. One protester outside court in Moscow simply shouted: “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell.”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said in a letter to supporters ( written before the verdict and passed to them by her lawyer), “I hold no spite. I have no private spite. But I have political spite.”

Our being in jail is a clear and distinct sign that freedom is being taken away from the whole country,” she wrote. “And this threat of destruction of the liberating, emancipatory forces of Russia is what makes me angry

Putin’s Russia has long been a dictatorship in all but name. Putin stood down as prime minister, but immediately became president. And dissent has always been met with strong-arm tactics. Even a brief anti-Putin performance in church has been punished in a way that does not reflect the “crime”, and the government has been careful to concentrate all attention on the “religious” aspect of the affair, so many people see it as an insult to their faith.

There have been protests internationally, with many well-known people lending a voice: Ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among several people arrest said ed outside the court in Moscow including opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov, while other protests have been attended by well-known people such as Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bjork. Protests have been held internationally, such as in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted “Freedom”, and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square, Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona. Of course, there have also been anti-Pussy Riot demonstrations, attended by Orthodox worshippers who have been tricked by Putin and his henchmen. It’s all been a wonderful distraction for Putin’s people to put into effect various anti-democratic steps, such as the series of laws targeting demonstrations, non-governmental organisations and the internet, and the charges recently been brought against opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

“Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country,” wrote Tolokonnikova in her letter written before the verdict.

“Whatever the verdict for Pussy Riot, we and you have already won,” she wrote. “Because we have learned to be angry and speak politically.”

Unfortunately, Russia has excellent, ruthless agents and troops inherited from the Communist age, and ex-KGB thug Putin won’t be standing down any time soon.

Locations of visitors to this page


free web stat


4 years for “inciting” non-existant riots… WTF are the British authorities up to?

17/08/2011

Yesterday (16 August 2011) Chester crown court sentenced 2 men to 4 years imprisonment for “trying” to incite riots that never actually happened. And David Cameron, who is supposed to be the prime minister of Britain, not a judge or legal commentator, said it was “very good”, adding:

“What happened on our streets was absolutely appalling behaviour and to send a very clear message that it’s wrong and won’t be tolerated is what the criminal justice system should be doing.”

Of course it’s terrible that riot and looting went on across England. But what do the riots that actually happened have to do with what Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan did? Moreover, Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan pleaded guilty to the charges – which makes me wonder what kind of low-grade legal advice they’d been given – and an early guilty plea is supposed to result in a reduced sentence. So this pair of clowns would have got maybe 10-year sentences if they’d pleaded not guilty? 10 years for not inciting a riot? What are our judges smoking before entering their court rooms?

MPs and civil rights groups have spoken out against the sentences, unsurprisingly. But what should be surprising is that prime minister Cameron said the sentences were “very good” – before adding that it is down to the courts to decide sentences. So, which is it, Cameron? Do judges have the discretion on sentencing here? Or are you sending (barely) concealed message to the court that anyone who says anything not in line with his beliefs deserves to rot in jail for as long as possible?

In Britain, the government proposes laws. Parliament debates, fine-tunes then passes the laws. And the police and courts enforce those laws. Cameron shouldn’t be telling judges how to do their jobs. Lord Carlile, the government’s former terror advisor accused ministers of appearing to “steer” the courts into handing down the more stringent sentences. Lord Carlile, a barrister and former Liberal Democrat MP warned that the sacrosanct separation of powers between the government and the judiciary had appeared to have been breached by some of the messages coming out of government since the riots engulfed neighbourhoods last week.

Fortunately, not all judges have been castrated by Cameron and his henchmen. The same Evening Standard article reports that a court in Bury St Edmund’s let a teenager walk free after his guilty plea. He had sent Facebook messages saying “”I think we should start rioting – it’s about time we stopped the authorities pushing us about. It’s about time we stood up for ourselves for once so come on riot – get some – LoL” Bad, to be sure, but hardly evil. His barrister said his client “had been a bit of a prat” – which pretty sums up Blackshaw’s and Sutcliffe-Keenan’s actions too.

Also, a Lambeth teenager who had been caught on CCTV hurling sticks and spades at officers, was allowed to walk free after his uncle, a Premier League football player, offered him somewhere to live outside of London.

This variation in judicial decisions is good, as it demonstrates that not all judges are bowing and scraping before their governmental overlords. But it is clear that a substantial number of judges are all too keen to please their masters. In the Guardian, Lord Carlile said:

“I don’t think it’s helpful for ministers to appear to be giving a steer to judges. The judges in criminal courts are mostly extremely experienced and well capable of making the decisions themselves. Ministers should focus on securing the safety of the public.”

The lord, who served for six years under Labour and the coalition until March as the government’s anti-terror adviser, added: “”Some judges may feel that and some ministers may feel that they have had a responsibility to use the language of sentences rather than policy.”

The authorities doubtless think it’s important to stamp down hard on some people’s recent behaviour. But that doesn’t mean the courts should become kangaroo courts blindly following the government’s instructions. Every single case is different, and each should be dealt with on its own merits. The government is beginning to see the consequences of its actions and policies; and they are scared of those consequences. Instead of knee-jerk reactions, they should try to fix the damage they have done. Otherwise today’s Britain will be just like the 1980s, when widespread civil unrest rocked the country.

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed by Met cop Harwood – and that’s official!!

03/05/2011

Today an inquest jury delivered a verdict of “unlawful killing” in the case of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who died after being attacked by a Metropolitan Police constable.  And the copper in question is PC Simon Harwood, a member of the Met’s infamous “Territorial Support Group”.

This blog has covered this case a couple of times – like here, and here – but here’s a quick recap.  On 1 April 2009 there was a demonstration in central London where the G20meeting was taking place.  Some demonstrators had gotten a bit rowdy, as had a number of the coppers policing the event, and the “Territorial Support Group” was out on the streets to restore “order”.  At about 7.20pm by the Royal Exchange Building, Ian Tomlinson was making his way home after a day’s work selling newspapers.  There were protesters nearby, and TSG officers, but Tomlinson was categorically not involved in the protests so it’s not at all clear why he attracted the attention of police officers.  But he did\get the attention of PC Simon Harwood.  There is CCTV footage of Mr Tomlinson walking past Harwood and other cops: then, for no apparent reason, Harwood is seen to run up behind Mr Tomlinson and shoved him forcibly in the back. It later transpired that Harwood had hit him with a baton.  Mr Tomlinson fell heavily to the ground and died.  There were a total of 4 postmortems carried out on Mr Tomlinson’s body: the first pathologist, Dr Freddy Patel, found that he died of a heart attack caused by coronary disease; but 3 other pathologists contradicted him, saying the cause of death was internal bleeding in the abdomen.

The Met tried hard to sweep this tragic event under the carpet: first of all he was painted by them as a violent protester; then, when it was made clear that he wasn’t involved in the demonstration, it was suggested that he was injured by protesters, and that he died because protesters prevented the heroic efforts of police officers to render first aid.  But of course, the CCTV footage put the lie to that bunch of crap.

Still the authorities tried to cover up for one of their own: the Met and the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge Harwood with any offence, even though the video and the testimony of witnesses attested to the cop’s vicious attack.  They tried hard to hide the truth; but public outrage finally forced them to hold  a public inquest into Mr Tomlinson’s death.

And that inquest has now found that Ian Tomlinson was unlawfully killed.  The jury declared that Tomlinson was, beyond reasonable doubt, killed by the baton attack and the shove.  Harwood’s attack was “unreasonable”.

The jury went on to say:

“As a result, Mr Tomlinson suffered internal bleeding which led to his collapse within a few minutes and his subsequent death.” The jury decided that at the time of the strike and push Tomlinson was was walking away from the officer and “posed no threat”.

The verdict was “unlawful killing”.  The killer was officer Simon Harwood.    So now Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, is going to have to decide whether or not to charge Harwood with the killing; and his decision last year not to charge Harwood with manslaughter is going to be reviewed.  Maybe, just maybe, the family of Ian Tomlinson will see justice done.

A still from the CCTV footage showing Harwood deliver the fatal blow

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


Check out the IFJ’s Survival Guide for Journalists.

09/02/2011

After my recent post on “How to survive a riot”, I have discovered the International Federation of Journalists’ Survival Guide for Journalists.

The IFJ guide is not riot-specific – it covers a variety of dicey situations, such as “war zones and conflict areas”, “riots and civil disorder” and “abductions, hostage taking and targeting journalists”. It also has chapters on emergency first aid and post-traumatic stress disorder”.

I haven’t read the Guide yet – Goddess, I only just found the thing! – but its blurb makes it sound pretty useful, lots of advice in one handy volume. And what’s even cooler, you can download it for free in pdf format from here

So check it out. Who knows – maybe one day it’ll save your life.

_gos=’c4.gostats.com’;_goa=354450;
_got=2;_goi=2;_goz=0;_gol=’Free hit counter’;_GoStatsRun();
Free hit counter
Free hit counter


%d bloggers like this: