Press aghast at Pussy Riot verdict

"Pussy Riot" supporters call for their freedom as they protest in front of of the Russian embassy in Warsaw People around the world have protested against the verdict

There is almost universal condemnation in the press worldwide of the two-year sentences imposed on members of Russian punk group Pussy Riot. In Russia itself, many mention the Dark Ages and one commentator calls the verdict "Bolshevist".

A French editorial calls the trial "a travesty of justice" and the Washington Post says the sentence is excessive.

But a newspaper in Belarus argues that the authorities have done Pussy Riot a favour by making them more popular.

Russia

Igor Maltsev on Izvestiya daily's website:

The next step would be to burn anyone who says that the earth is round. That would be nice. After smashing justice up with a god's hammer, after mixing paganism, communism, commissars and papacy together, what we suddenly received is another Afghanistan-1980.

Stanislav Minin on the website of centrist daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta:

Two years in jail is probably not too harsh, as 'things are tougher in some countries'. Of course they are. In some countries people get pelted with stones and in others, I think, they still get eaten. But there is little honour in looking more humane than a man-eater.

Mikhail Rostovskiy on the website of Moskovskiy Komsomolets tabloid:

The Pussy Riot verdict - two years - is a totally Bolshevist outcome of a thoroughly Bolshevist trial caused by a 100% Bolshevist act by the defendants... The Pussy Riot case is a huge moral and political defeat suffered by the Russian authorities and society alike.

Aleksandr Grishin in Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda:

Who would have thought six months ago that the verdict for three fools tried for hooliganism would almost become the main political event in a huge country. Liberal social activists, people of non-traditional sexual orientation, arts intelligentsia and circles close to it threw themselves to defend members of the infamous Pussy Riot band.

Belarus

Editor-in-chief Pavel Yakubovich on the website of Belarusian official newspaper Sovetskaya Belorussiya:

They are quite ordinary young ladies trying to kill time and attract some attention... By convicting Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alekhina, the authorities did them a huge image favour. I won't be surprised if they are declared 'prisoners of conscience' and the Mandelas of our time, while grey-haired Scandinavian dignitaries nominate [Pussy Riot member] Tolokonnikova for the Nobel prize.

France

Editorial in Liberation, headlined 'Gulag':

This case is indicative of the power system under Putin and his puppet Medvedev. A travesty of justice and democracy. Russia is not a country of the rule of law, it has nothing to do alongside the G8 democracies.

Spain

Editorial in El Pais:

Perpetrators of a similar act would have also been punished in another country, but not by two years in prison. But Russia is a country that is more than dubious as far as freedoms go. Putin's regime... mistook the punks' challenge for a threat, and by acting like it did has turned these girls into global icons of the challenge to his authority.

Germany

Peter Storm in German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

From the beginning, the trial has been used to show the opposition that even harder times are about to begin... The political climate in Russia is approaching freezing point. How long can Putin preserve his system?

Julian Hans in centre-left daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung:

The process was a bizarre spectacle, the conviction fits Putin's calculations: By convicting the three Pussy Riot activists to two years in prison, Russia shows the world that it has abandoned its path to the rule of law and democracy.

Commentary by Uwe Klussmann on Spiegel Online International edition website:

With the harsh verdict on the harmless artists, Russian President Vladimir Putin has committed a serious mistake: He is provoking the opposition to more aggression towards the state... By turning basically harmless artists into criminals, the regime has transformed the trial against Pussy Riot into a political time bomb.

Poland

Commentary by Dorota Jarecka on Gazeta Wyborcza website:

By handing down a two-year sentence the authorities are showing their power. The sentence means: public opinion and truth are of no importance. And also: those wanting to criticize the authorities must think twice. Because it may be considered a blasphemy.

Italy

Anna Zafesova in La Stampa:

Usually, in similar situations - like the case of Khodorkovsky - Putin has so far always taken a hard line. This time, the reduction of the sentence by one year compared to what was sought by the prosecution, after the president said he hoped for a sentence that is 'not too severe', suggests a sudden sensitivity to criticism.

Riccardo Noury in Corriere della Sera:

[The verdict] today does not only represent an attempt, unfortunately successful, to silence three young voices of dissent. It is also a warning to all the others: here is what will happen to you if you dare to challenge the power.

USA

Editorial in Washington Post

The trial of Pussy Riot was a farce in which the defendants were locked in a glass cage and the judge repeatedly refused to let the defence call witnesses... Whatever one thinks of the band's deed, the sentence is over the top... It would have been sufficient to sentence them to time served and let them go free. What really has occurred in this case is that Pussy Riot was singled out to discourage others from challenging the establishment.

Steve Chapman in Chicago Tribune:

Vladimir Putin is a famously tough guy - a former KGB agent who knows karate, plays hockey and gets photographed shirtless on horseback. But the Russian strongman is not really so strong. Evidently he's scared to death of three women who play in a punk rock band with the unforgettable name of Pussy Riot... Only corrupt dictatorial leaders have grounds to fear the complaints of their citizens. Putin is the archetypal strongman - shielded by security forces and afraid of people armed with nothing but guitars and truth.

Canada

Editorial in the Globe and Mail:

"Sentencing the three young women in a Russian punk band to two years in jail, for singing a protest song in a church, is a disproportionate punishment by any standards... The trial's outcome will only serve to further polarize Russian society, and cement Mr Putin's international reputation as an anti-modernist autocrat, in spite of his pledge to free his country from Communism's legacy.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here

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