Icelandic Government Takes Stand On Pussy Riot Case

20.8.2012
Words by Paul Fontaine
Two ministers have denounced the recent sentencing of members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs publicly expressing a message to Russian authorities over the matter.

As reported, Icelanders have shown a keen interest in the case. The band was arrested last February, after their performance in an Orthodox church in Russia, where they called upon the "mother of God" to remove Russian president Vladimir Putin from power. Since then, their trial has gained international attention, and ended last Friday with a two-year prison sentence for the three.

In Iceland, protesters gathered at the Russian embassy last month, leading to one arrest. Iceland Airwaves directing manager Grímur Atlason has pledged to hold a punk rock concert outside of the Russian embassy and Russian Orthodox church every Thursday at noon, to voice disapproval for the continued detention of Pussy Riot. Amnesty Iceland is formally taking part in a global campaign against the Russian government being organised by Amnesty International. During last weekend's Gay Pride celebrations, Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr dressed as a member of the band while atop a float in last Saturday's Gay Pride parade, displaying a sign reading "Free Pussy Riot". Protests held last Friday led to charges filed against one of the organisers and three others, over the taking down of the Russian flag last July.

RÚV now reports that some government ministers have spoken up on the matter as well.

Minister of the Interior Ögmundur Jónasson officially condemned the band's treatment, saying that it should be a part of the international discussion on human rights. Foreign Minister Össur Skarphéðinsson said that Icelandic authorities met with the Russian embassy over the Pussy Riot trial to express their concerns before the sentencing was handed down. He went on to say that "To be honest, I thought Russia was headed in another direction than this verdict shows. I think it underlines a restriction on the freedom of expression. Of course these girls insulted those in power with their performance, but in a democratic society, civilians can insult authority figures without being tossed in a dungeon."


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