Cohen to Putin: Free Imprisoned Musicians
MEMPHIS, TN – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting a presidential pardon for members of a recently imprisoned punk music group. Three members of the band -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina -- were sentenced to two years in prison for a performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral.
The text of the letter is pasted below:
August 20, 2012
His Excellency Vladimir Putin
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to express my dismay at the prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina, members of the punk group Pussy Riot, and to appeal for their pardon.
These young women, charged with committing an act of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility,” were subject to a trial that has discredited the Russian judicial system, and is generally seen as farcical - particularly as the judge refused to consider the womens’ testimony or to hear witnesses for the defense. The behavior and reasoning of the judge – who criticized the defendants’ “active position in life” and “tendency to express their opinions categorically” – cannot plausibly be viewed as impartial. The sentence of two years imprisonment for their performance at Christ the Savior Cathedral is in any case draconian.
Without going into the merits or demerits of the Russian law relating to “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility” – a subject on which you and I might well disagree – I appeal to you to uphold the principles of fair trial and humane sentencing as fundamental responsibilities of a just government. The defendants in this case manifestly did not receive a fair trial, nor was their sentence humane. I appeal to you to publicly acknowledge these injustices and to give these young women, already imprisoned for six months, a presidential pardon, or to effectively reduce their sentence to time served.
Mr. President, good U.S.-Russian relations are critically important to the safety and security of the entire world. We have many strategic interests in common, particularly regarding defense and access to energy. As a Member of Congress, I will do what I can to strengthen our bilateral relations with Russia. Sadly, the prosecution and sentencing of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina, will complicate the possibility of such improvement.
Mr. President, I firmly believe that to publicly acknowledge these injustices and to pardon or reduce the sentence of the young women in question would be an act of statesmanship that would redound to your government’s credit and to that of the great country which you lead.
Member of Congress