Category Archives: Political Protest
Three members of the punk band Pussy Riot are set to make their case before a Russian appeals court that they should not be imprisoned for their irreverent protest against president Vladimir Putin.
Their impromptu performance inside Moscow’s main cathedral in February came shortly before Mr Putin was elected to a third term.
The three women were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison.
The verdict was condemned in the US and Europe, where it was seen as an illustration of Mr Putin’s intolerance of dissent.
Mr Putin, however, recently said the court ruled correctly because “it is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country”.
Moscow City Court is to begin hearing the appeal today.
A feminist punk rock group who staged a protest against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral went on trial today accused of hooliganism, facing up to seven years in prison.
The Pussy Riot band – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (above), 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 – have been in custody for five months since their February stunt. Their prosecution has caused a sharp public divide and drawn protests from rights groups who have declared them prisoners of conscience.
The trial began on July 20 but the first sessions were devoted to procedural issues.
Today with the court turning to the substance of the case, Tolokonnikova and other defendants said in statements read by their lawyer that their goal was to express their resentment over Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill’s support for Mr Putin’s rule.
They pleaded not guilty to the official charges of hooliganism driven by “religious hatred.” Tolokonnikova said she felt sorry if some of the believers felt insulted by their act, but that they did not mean to offend anyone. It was not clear how long the trial might last, but a court has recently ruled that the women should be kept in custody for another six month. Two other participants in the performance have not been identified and remain at large.
Mr Putin has avoided comment on the case, but many commentators believe that he has given his blessing to the prosecution as part of a crackdown on dissent following unprecedented protests in Moscow against his 12-year rule. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that was up to the court to issue a verdict.
Rank-and file police officers are to stage a protest over proposed changes to their pay and conditions – but they be kettled by their colleagues?.
The Police Federation, which would not confirm what its plans will involve, said it is planning to hold an event in central London on May 10.
It comes as the federation’s 135,000 members across England and Wales are being balloted on whether they want the right to strike.
Along with the armed forces and prison officers, the police are banned in law from taking industrial action.
Many officers are angry with the Government in the wake of 20% budget cuts and proposals for the most wide-ranging reform of police pay and conditions in more than 30 years.
The national federation said the event would “highlight officer concerns about cuts to policing”.
It has previously said the event would show “the unprecedented attack on policing by this Government and the consequences that these cuts will have for public safety”.
Its Greater Manchester branch added that it would be “arranging for officers to go to London and show the world their anger at these impractical and unworkable proposals”.
Tom Winsor’s 18-month review of police pay and conditions signalled the end of a job for life as he called for the ban on chief constables making officers redundant to be lifted in the face of budget cuts.
The current pay system, which was based on a 1920s’ design of rewarding years of service, should be overhauled and replaced with one that recognised hard work and merit instead, he said.
He also called for annual fitness tests to be brought in, with those who repeatedly fail at risk of being docked almost £3,000 and, in the most extreme cases, sacked for unsatisfactory performance.
A new educational requirement should also be brought in, with applicants needing the equivalent of three A-levels at grades A to C, along with direct entry for civilians into the ranks of inspector and superintendent.
The review also said the starting salary for police constables should be cut from the current £23,500 to £19,000 for someone with no police-related experience.
Among the 121 recommendations, the report said there should be higher pay for more demanding jobs, pay linked to skills and performance rather than length of service, and an allowance for working unsocial hours, defined as outside 8am to 6pm.
It also called for the pension age for officers to be raised to 60, in line with Lord Hutton’s recommendations.
But previous attempts to overhaul police pay and conditions have failed in the face of fierce opposition from rank-and-file officers.
The last review, carried out in June 1993 by Sir Patrick Sheehy under then-home secretary Kenneth Clarke, recommended abolishing jobs for life, introducing fixed terms of service and scrapping overtime payments.
But most of the recommendations were never implemented after a high-profile campaign by the Police Federation.
Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith also tried to save money in 2008 by rejecting a recommended pay increase – but again was forced to back down after officers marched in London.
Later, Greater Manchester Chief Constable Peter Fahy said he “cannot see any of these changes happening quickly”.
“Staff do not need reminding that we are already under a two-year pay and increment freeze and pay will only increase by about 1% after that,” he said.
“Next month many officers will see an increase in their pension contributions.
“That means there is little scope to bring in further changes when staff are already taking such a substantial hit.
“There is also no spare cash about to smooth the impact of any changes.”
Mr Fahy, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead for workforce development, wrote on Acpo’s blog: “Chief constables do not believe that police officers are overpaid.
“But we do believe that the current way of developing and rewarding our staff does not always allow us to get the best out of them.”
He went on: “Some police officers are not rewarded enough for the difficult and dangerous jobs they do, while there are also a minority of underperformers who are a frustration to the hard-working, committed and passionate majority.”
Mark Leech editor of the national newspaper for prisoners Converse said: “Its all very well for the cops to protest they won’t be kettled by their colleagues, whereas others with other legitimate reasons for protest will be subject to such deplorable behaviour.”