Yesterday, the Guardian reported:
Three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot are facing two years in a prison colony after they were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, in a case seen as the first salvo in Vladimir Putin's crackdown on opposition to his rule.
Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were calmly defiant as a judge handed down the sentence, to cries of "Shame!" inside and outside court. Judge Marina Syrova said she rejected their arguments that they had not intended to offend religious believers but were protesting against the Orthodox church's support for Putin.
The case has galvanised Russia's anti-Putin protest movement and raised the international profile of their cause, with dozens of protests held worldwide.
Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Pussy Riot causing a public disturbance and everything to do with closing down criticism of the current regime. Unfortunately for the dictator Vladimir Putin, it has been widely reported on and ensured huge amounts of support for the punk rock band and their cause.
Yesterday, CBC News reported:
Jane Buchanan, a senior researcher on Russia at Human Rights Watch in New York, said the band members were legitimately exercising their right to free expression with their performance.
"To face criminal changes with a heavy sentence is scandalous and it speaks volumes to the environment for free speech and political opinion that's critical of the government," she said.
The judiciary in Russia is not an independent branch of the state, as it is in most Western countries, observers note.
"It's closely controlled by the executive and, in the Pussy Riot trial and trials before it, we have seen such a scandalous number of fair trial violations that it gives a strong sense that there's a political motivation and a political direction behind this kind of trial," Buchanan says.
What makes this even more disgusting is that Putin publicly called for Pussy Riot not to be judged too harshly.
Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported:
The Russian president said there was "nothing good" about the band's protest, but added: "Nonetheless, I don't think that they should be judged so harshly for this."
"I hope the court will come out with the right decision, a well-founded one," he said during a visit to the Olympics.
However the punishment clearly shows that there has been political interference in the judicial system and Putin's comments were simply made to appease foreign criticism while he was in the UK. So for being a disingenuous dictator that's widely disliked by the people of Russia, and repressing free speech and the creative spirit, Vladimir Putin wins this week's Asshole Award.