Playwright supports jailed Russian band

Former Wollongong playwright Van Badham, pictured on the escarpment in 2007. Former Wollongong playwright Van Badham has delivered a scathing speech in Sweden in support of Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Badham, who attended the University of Wollongong before achieving international success as a playwright, slammed the imprisonment of members of the band, calling it ‘‘an attack on the values of peaceful protest’’.

Three members of the all-female band, who are based in Moscow, were on Friday convicted of hooliganism by inciting religious hatred following a performance of song that condemned Russian president Vladimir Putin during a protest in February.

The protest movement, at a Russian Orthodox Church, was part of a campaign against Putin’s re-election.

The three band members were each sentenced to two years in jail for the song, Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away.

Pussy Riot are known for their politically-charged, often impromptu performances.

The Russian Orthodox Church appealed for clemency, however, The incident has provoked international condemnation from politicians and artists, including Madonna, Paul McCartney and Sting.

Van Badham’s speech, in Mynttorget in central Stockholm, was delivered on behalf of the Women Playwright International Conference. Badham said the crowd had gathered to demand that all women ‘‘had the right to free expression … [and] the right to peaceful protest’’.

Badham told the hundreds gathered that ‘‘singing a song is not a crime’’ and slammed the jailing of the Pussy Riot members as ‘‘an attack on the right of all citizens of the world to stand up and express dissent’’.

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