The FINANCIAL -- The EU's foreign affairs chief
said a "serious question mark" hung over Russian justice and called on
Moscow to "reverse" its two-year jail sentences Friday for three members
of female music act Pussy Riot for protesting against President
"This sentence is disproportionate," Catherine Ashton said, adding in an unusually firm reaction: "I expect that this sentence will be reviewed and reversed in line with Russia's international commitments."
Coming on top of reports of mistreatment and irregularities during the trial, Ashton said the case "puts a serious question mark over Russia's respect for international obligations of fair, transparent, and independent legal process."
Band members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were each found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" in staging a February 21 "punk prayer" protest in Russia's main church.
Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova each have young children and, while the maximum sentence under Russian law would have been for seven years in prison, Ashton said that "this case adds to the recent upsurge in politically-motivated intimidation and prosecution of opposition activists in the Russian Federation."
English baroness Ashton said in her statement that this was "a trend that is of growing concern to the European Union" and "runs counter to Russia's international obligations as regards respect for freedom of expression."
As EUbusiness reported, Ashton added that respect for human rights and the rule of law is "an indispensable part of the EU-Russia relationship" and said that issuing such a sentence to two young mothers "for a peaceful, if controversial, expression of their views, is deeply troubling."