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FRANCE DIPLOMATIE, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR (France), THE VOICE OF RUSSIA (Russia)

Worldcrunch

On August 17, when three members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in a penal colony, the verdict sparked outrage around the world: the U. S. State Department asked Russia to “review this case and to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld,” while Amnesty International called the conviction “a bitter blow for freedom of expression.”

Almost three weeks have passed since the ruling, and although petitions were signed, and protests were held, governments opposing the verdict have taken few significant steps to truly challenge Russia.

But now, the first concrete reaction has arrived from the self-declared "country of human rights" itself. France's Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights François Zimeray has arrived in Moscow to try to meet with three members of Pussy Riot, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

"François Zimeray will be in Moscow from September 3 to 5. He has asked to visit the three Pussy Riot members who have been in prison for the past six months," according to Philippe Laliot, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted by Le Nouvel Observateur.

Zimeray will meet his Foreign Ministry counterpart and "recall that France supports the principles of freedom of expression and opinion throughout the world," the ministry's official website France Diplomatie reports.

It is still not clear whether Zimeray will be granted access to visit the jailed women. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevitch, 30, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, were each sentenced to two years in camp for "hooliganism" and "inciting religious hatred" in February and March after singing an anti-Putin "punk prayer" at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys of the rock band have waved off as “unacceptable and outrageous” the request by the Russian “Man and Law” television program to have the trio publicly apologize before the nation, Voice of Russia reports.

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In northern India along the bustling Jammu-Srinagar national highway near Pampore — known as the saffron town of Kashmir —people are busy picking up saffron flowers to fill their wicker baskets.

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