Russian punk band to appear at star-studded Amnesty concert in New York
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Russian punk band Pussy Riot will join Madonna, R&B singer Lauryn Hill and alternative rock group Imagine Dragons at an all-star concert for Amnesty international on Wednesday night, on the eve the Winter Olympics opening in Sochi, Russia.
Russia has come under pressure by human rights activists in the months leading up to the games for its intolerance of political dissent and a law passed last year that the promotion of homosexuality among minors.
"With billions of eyes focused on the Olympics, it's one of those rare moments where you can shine a bright light on discrimination," said Brian Ellner, a founding board member of the gay rights group Athlete Ally.
The case of Pussy Riot, in particular, has sparked a global outcry. In 2012, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after storming Moscow's biggest Orthodox cathedral and beseeching the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.
After nearly two years behind bars, Putin granted them amnesty in December.
"It's a wonderful example of how the civil society can be put to work," Tolokonnikova said at a news conference with Amnesty on Tuesday.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina will be introduced at the "Bringing Human Rights Home" concert, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, by pop star Madonna, and will speak but are not expected to perform at the event.
While in the United States, the women plan to visit prisons and meet with related non-governmental organizations to gain insight into how the Russian prison system might be improved.
The women made a similar trip to Holland, but said they could not imagine that Russian prisons would ever resemble Dutch facilities, which Tolokonnikova described as "a universe apart."
The event will resume a global concert series that Nobel Peace Prize-winning Amnesty International began 25 years ago, which has featured such rock greats as U2, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Lou Reed.
(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)