Pussy Riot members jailed for two years for hooliganism

 

Judge Marina Syrova: "These three plus others... plotted together to undermine civil order, motivated by religious hatred"

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Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been jailed for two years after staging an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral.

Judge Marina Syrova convicted the women of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, saying they had "crudely undermined social order".

The women say the protest, in February, was directed at the Russian Orthodox Church leader's support for Mr Putin.

The US, UK and EU all criticised the sentences as "disproportionate".

Prosecutors had been seeking a three-year jail sentence for the women.

Judge Syrova said Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had offended the feelings of Orthodox believers and shown a "complete lack of respect".

"Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism - in other words, a grave violation of public order," she said.

Worldwide protests

Along with other members of their band, the women staged a flashmob-style performance of their song close to the altar in the cathedral on 21 February.

Supporters of Pussy Riot place balaclavas on a statue in a Moscow underground station (17 Aug 2012)

Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out", enraged the Orthodox Church - its leader Patriarch Kirill said it amounted to blasphemy.

Mr Putin was elected for a third term as president two weeks later.

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich, watching Friday's proceedings from inside a glass-walled cage in the courtroom, smiled as the widely predicted conviction was announced.

The judge then took three hours to read the verdict, before handing down "two years deprivation of liberty in a penal colony" for each defendant.

Start Quote

They are in jail because it is Putin's personal revenge"”

End Quote Alexei Navalny Opposition leader

"Considering the nature and degree of the danger posed by what was done, the defendants' correction is possible only through an actual punishment," she said.

One man in the courtroom shouted "shame" at the sentencing, and there were chants and whistles from the band's supporters outside.

Tolokonnikova's husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said: "Russia's image was quite scary even before [this]. What happened now is a clear sign that Russia is moving towards becoming more like China or North Korea."

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny added: "They are in jail because it is Putin's personal revenge. This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin."

The defendants' lawyer, Nikolai Polozov, said they would not appeal to President Putin for a pardon. However, there will be a legal appeal against the verdict.

Analysis

Once the sentences were handed down, the United States and the European Union were quick to condemn them as "disproportionate". Certainly many feel that the initial protest by Pussy Riot was blasphemous, foolish and wrong. But Russia's most outspoken critics say the trial took things to another extreme; it showed how the country was returning to the dark ages, said one.

That must certainly be how the Pussy Riot band will see it. From their vantage point - a glass cage in the corner of a stifling Moscow courtroom, the press gathered round them - they may just have heard a tribute punk band start up outside on a third-floor balcony. Its tunes were soon halted by an angry-looking man. This was a brief distraction to those massing outside the courtroom, where chants of "freedom, freedom" competed with anti-Pussy Rioters shouting "shame on you, shame on you".

It was, they said, one of the most anticipated, most divisive court cases in Russia's recent history. And aside from the colourful drama outside the courtroom, inside when the sentencing came, there were no surprises.

Amnesty International said the ruling was a "bitter blow" for freedom of expression in Russia.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and the UK's Foreign Office criticised the severity of the sentences.

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld."

On Thursday, Tolokonnikova had said she was "not bitter about being in jail". But, speaking through her lawyer on Twitter, she said: "Politically, I am furious."

"Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country," she said.

The women have been detained for the past five months.

Associated Press news agency said a number of protesters had been arrested outside the court before the sentencing was announced, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov and opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov.

There were also pro-Pussy Riot protests in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted "Freedom", and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square.

Other shows of support took place in Belgrade, Berlin, Sofia, London, Dublin and Barcelona.

The band have also had vocal support from artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna, and from politicians.

Critics of the band have also been demonstrating, saying the stunt was an insult to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov was among several people arrested outside the court in Moscow

One, Igor Kim, told the BBC News website from Moscow: "Shouting and screaming and spreading hate in Church is unacceptable and is contrary with Christian ethics."

Valentina Ivanova, a retired doctor, told Reuters: "What they did showed disrespect towards everything, and towards believers first of all."

One protester outside court in Moscow simply shouted: "Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell."

 

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  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 80.

    The hypocrisy of politicians in the west is astounding. They point the finger at Russia over this yet those very same politicians force Julian Assange, a man who hasn't even been charged with any crime, to be put under house arrest for many months following with him having to hole up in a foreign powers embassy in order to avoid deportation to a country with the death penalty.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 68.

    The world's gone mad when a girl band get locked up for a publicity stunt. The West must be loving this bad PR for Putin though, just in time to bomb Iran?

    Some strange people on here if they believe that a girl band who harmlessly performed a PR stunt in a church should be locked up.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 64.

    I'm glad that Russian powers have shot themselves in the foot with this one and have shown their warped brand of freedom.

    Pussy Riot are now internationally recognised and their original message/cause has reached a worldwide audience.

    2 years porridge is a pretty good price to pay. A ridiculous sentence nevertheless, but mission accomplished for Pussy Riot!!

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 63.

    They should be grateful they didn't put a few secrets on the web or they'd be looking at extradition to the US to possibly face the death penalty.

    Don't think we're much different, it's just we're more adept at hiding it.

 
 

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