Pussy Riot Member Files Complaint to Human Rights Court Over Paper Airplane Punishment

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images
Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot poses during a press preview for the 'Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism' and 'Inside Pussy Riot' exhibitions at Saatchi Gallery in central London on Nov. 15, 2017. 

Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights over her sentencing earlier this year to community service for a rally in support of messaging service Telegram.

On April 18, a Moscow court ordered Alyokhina to carry out 140 hours of community service for the street rally in support of Telegram. Two days earlier, Alyokhina and 11 other activists were detained in front of the building of Russia's secret service FSB in Moscow's Lybyanka Square for throwing paper airplanes of various colors at the building's door.

The move was meant to support Telegram, whose logo is a paper airplane. Earlier that month, the messaging service was banned in Russia for refusing to allow FSB to decipher messages sent by its users. The participants in the rally were charged with violating public gathering rules.

The court ruled that throwing the airplanes "created obstacles for passersby and vehicles" and that the protesters "formed a dangerous gathering that hampered free movement of passersby" and prevented them from accessing "socially important objects." Some of the protesters were sentenced to community service, while others were fined.

Alyokhina claims that her detention and subsequent sentencing was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, her lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina, announced on Thursday.

Specifically, articles 10 and 11 of the convention, which stipulate the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, respectively, were violated by the Russian court and she was actually detained for expressing her opinion rather than violating public order, Alyokhina maintained.

She also insisted on irregularities during the hearing of her case by the court back in April.

Alyokhina never accepted the verdict and refused to comply with it. This August, she was stopped from leaving Russia while traveling to the United Kingdom to perform at a theater show, for failure to perform the community service imposed by the court.

A month earlier, ECHR ruled that Russia should pay Alyokhina, alongside other Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich, €50,000 euro ($58,000) as compensation for the 2012 "punk prayer" controversy, for which they were sentenced to prison. Russia appealed the ruling.

Normally, it takes ECHR years to consider complaints, and it's not clear at this point when Alyokhina's most recent complaint could be considered.


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