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Paul McCartney: Free Pussy Riot

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Posted on May 23, 2013

In a letter to Russian authorities this week, former Beatle Paul McCartney urged them to release the remaining members of Pussy Riot from prison. McCartney’s missive came as the punk band’s Maria Alyokhina began a hunger strike after she was not allowed to attend her own parole hearing.

“My personal belief is that further incarceration for Maria will be harmful for her and the situation as a whole, which, of course, is being watched by people all over the world,” he wrote, according to an excerpt on his website.

“In the great tradition of fair-mindedness which the Russian people (many of whom are my friends) are famous for, I believe that you granting this request would send a very positive message to all the people who have followed this case,” he added.

Despite the letter, Alyokhina was denied parole.

In a separate message expressing his support for group member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was denied early release last month, McCartney said, “I have had a long relationship with the Russian people, and, with this in mind, I am making the following request in a spirit of friendship for my many Russian acquaintances who, like me, believe in treating people—all people, with compassion and kindness.”

This isn’t the first time that McCartney has publicly backed Pussy Riot. In a letter of support posted on his website in August, he wrote: “I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest.”

The ex-Beatle continued, “I hope you can stay strong and believe that I and many others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in our power to support you and the idea of artistic freedom.”

Pussy Riot members Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in jail for conducting their infamous “punk prayer” against Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral last year. Samutsevich has since been freed.

Alyokhina will appeal Thursday’s parole ruling, according to her lawyer.

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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