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Russia's Pussy Riot Wins Court Case Against Vladimir Putin's Government

The European Court of Human Rights Tuesday ordered Russia to pay the female punk group Pussy Riot almost $57,000 in damages for the treatment of its members.

In 2012, the women had been charged with hooliganism after playing a protest song in a church in Moscow. The court said that the women, two of whom spent nearly two years each in prison before being released as part of a large amnesty in December 2013, had been judged too severely and had been subjected to humiliating treatment during the process. The women, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, said that they had been subjected to forced gynecological examinations every few weeks during their imprisonment.

In its ruling, the court determined that sentencing the women to imprisonment “for simply having worn brightly colored clothes, waved their arms and kicked their legs around and used strong language, without analyzing the lyrics of their song or the context of their performance, had been exceptionally severe."

In a separate judgement on Tuesday, the court criticized Moscow’s investigation into the 2006 murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot in her Moscow apartment. The court said that Russia “had failed to take adequate investigatory steps to find the person or persons who had commissioned the murder.”

The journalist had been a harsh critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and investigated human rights abuses in Chechnya. Five people were sentenced to lengthy jail terms for her murder, but relatives said the person who ordered the killing has not yet been exposed. The court ruled that Russia must pay around $23,000 to Politkovskaya’s relatives.

The Russian Justice Department later published on its website a statement pointing out that the ruling is not finalized because there is still time for appeal.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, rules based on the European Convention on Human Rights. Moscow ratified the convention in 1998, several years before Putin came to power. The court allows citizens to bring their own government to task for abuses, and the plaintiff is not required to obtain a lawyer to submit an initial complaint.

Moscow has frequently run afoul of the court. In 2015, Putin signed a law that allows Russia’s Constitutional Court to decide whether or not to comply with the court’s rulings.

On Monday, a Moscow court also gave four Pussy Riot members 15-day jail sentences for having interrupted the World Cup final game between France and Croatia last Sunday. Members of the band have routinely participated in protests over the past several years, and have been harassed by law enforcement as a result.

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