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Pussy Riot Claims Russia Violated Expression, Fair Trial Rights

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Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Members of the punk group Pussy Riot sued Russia at the European Court of Human Rights, saying their conviction on charges related to a protest against President Vladimir Putin violated their rights to freedom of expression.

The complaint, the women’s second at the Strasbourg, France-based court, was filed yesterday and concerns violations since they were found guilty in August of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred, their lawyer, Yonko Grozev, said today in a telephone interview.

Three members of the all-female band were arrested after performing a “punk prayer,” clad in skimpy dresses and masks, in Russia’s main Christian Orthodox place of worship in February 2012 urging President Vladimir Putin’s removal. The crackdown spurred protests in Russia and abroad against policies discouraging political dissent. In October, a Moscow court freed one member on a suspended sentence, deeming her participation “minimal,” while upholding two-year jail terms for the others.

While Grozev “hopes” for an expedited hearing by the human rights court, given how long it takes typically to reach a final decision, he said, “we have approximately zero chance to get a ruling before they have served their sentence.”

The complaint cites “violations of a number of rights since the guilty verdict and the appeal decision,” Grozev said. In addition to allegations related to freedom of expression and fair trial, they complained that the “security regime” imposed on them amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment, he said.

The women also submitted a complaint in June to the court. Grozev, who said he took up the women’s case in the fall and wasn’t involved in the earlier filing, said he expects the two to be combined.

The complaint was reported earlier by Kommersant.

To contact the reporter on this story: Heather Smith in Paris at hsmith26@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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