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Q: What are your thoughts on the Russian authorities prosecuting the punk rock band Pu**y Riot for criticizing Putin? Can they really do this, and can’t the United States do something to help those girls? [name withheld]
A: I think your questions are more political and ideological than legal. Nevertheless, from a legal perspective you raise two issues. First, to determine whether foreign authorities have the right to prosecute their citizens would require a review of the foreign jurisdiction’s laws. The Russian law that serves as the equivalent to our own First Amendment Freedom of Speech would require an in-depth analysis applying the law to the specific underlying facts, and I assure you there is no universally accepted answer to its application. Second, regarding your question whether the United States can intervene on the band members’ behalf, this would depend upon the prerequisites set forth in the current Treaty between the United States and Russia. Any time a legal issue arises between foreign nations, the place to start is the Treaty between them. It prescribes the circumstances under which legal intervention is possible.
The better question is: should we intervene? Certainly the inhumane treatment of civilians is a civil rights issue that concerns all of us. Nevertheless, I find it ironic that the same Hollywood factions who oppose the United State’s positions in Iraq and Afghanistan now hold press conferences to voice their outrage over the prosecution of the members of this band for their behavior. I doubt that any of us know the entire story leading up to the arrest and prosecution of the girls. A little bit of research into the band, however, suggests that these girls have been performing lewd and offensive antics in public for some time, and it has only recently caught up to them. Admittedly we cannot be certain of the circumstances surrounding their prosecution and incarceration, but we do know that these people chose a profoundly religious forum to express their radical message of anarchy. I am no fan of our current White House administration and believe we need a change in the upcoming election, but if a punk band chose to desecrate a local Church in order to defile the President of the United States, I would want them prosecuted and I believe our laws and Constitution would support my position.
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