Whoopi Goldberg, Martin Sheen, European Film Academy & More Call For Russian Gov To End Prosecution Of Pussy Riot Band Members

A group of high-profile industry figures have signed a letter calling for an end to the prosecution of Maria Alekhina and Lucy (Ludmila) Shtein, two members of the anarchist feminist group Pussy Riot.

The pair face up to two years in prison for Instagram posts advocating for the release of political prisoners in Russia, which they sent following the mass protests in response to the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny. The pair have been under house arrest for two months and are banned from using the internet. They face a trial this week to see if their house arrest will be extended or if the criminal court process will begin.

The letter has been penned by Nadya Tolokonnikova, a Pussy Riot member who was sentenced to a prison sentence in 2012 for her actions with the group. At the time of publication, the list of signatories included Martin and Janet Sheen, Whoopi Goldberg, Spike Jonze, Maria Abramovic, Mike Farrell, Mia Farrow, and numerous more. The full text of the letter is below.

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“Having worked long and hard with Masha Alekhina and Pussy Riot for the release of Oleg Sentsov, there is no doubt that her tireless campaigning for human rights, and in this case the Aleksei Navalny case, is one that is selfless, full of integrity and passionate,” said European Film Academy chairman Mike Downey. “Clearly Masha and the group are victims once more of Vladimir Putin’s witch hunt to silence all dissent and establish further show trials to deter the followers of Pussy Riot and of Navalny. The European Film Academy stands by Masha and Lucy and supports them in their struggle for basic human rights in Russia.”

Here’s the letter’s full text:

To Whom It May Concern,
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, call on the Russian government to immediately cease criminal prosecution of Pussy Riot band members Maria Alekhina and Lucy (Ludmila) Shtein. They face up to two years in prison for posts on social media advocating for the release of political prisoners in Russia. Ms. Alekhina has already spent two years in prison for performing the song “Virgin Mary, drive Putin away.” Now she and other politicians and artists face charges of “inciting violations of sanitary regulations.” These baseless charges are part of the Russian government’s campaign to silence activists and discourage people from further protests stirred by corruption and the unfair and politically motivated imprisonment of Aleksey Navalny.

Ms. Alekhina’s imprisonment and her continued persecution under the guise of prosecution by Russian authorities directly violate international human rights laws and standards that protect freedom of thought, speech, and expression. These actions seek to oppress and persecute peaceful voices supporting democratic values in an effort to suppress any opposition against the authoritarian Russian government.

We condemn the persecution of peaceful demonstrators who according to numerous reports are currently being beaten, tortured, imprisoned and ill-treated for participating in rallies. Persecution based on political opinion is unacceptable in any civilized society.

We respectfully urge your government to drop all charges against Maria Alekhina and Lucy Shtein in observance of international human rights laws and standards. The international community of artists and human rights advocates around the world will continue to monitor their situation and press your government until you withdraw their cases.

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