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Pussy Riot members found guilty in Moscow

By | Published on Friday 17 August 2012

Pussy Riot

Three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich – have been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred at the conclusion of their widely reported trial in Moscow.

Judge Marina Syrova sentenced each of the three women to two years in prison – less than the three the prosecution had called for, and the seven year maximum sentence they could have faced. The sentences will commence from the date of their arrest, thus taking into account the time they have already served since March. Still, this is not an outcome that is being celebrated by their supporters, though according to The Guardian, Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich laughed after receiving their sentences.

As previously reported, the three accused women – commonly known as Masha, Nadya and Katya – were arrested earlier this year amidst allegations they were amongst the five members of the ten strong band who performed a “punk prayer” against president Vladimir Putin on the altar of the Cathedral Of Christ The Saviour Of The Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. All three pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

In summing up, The Guardian reports, the judge said: “It was a small act but maybe not a very elegant act but they consider that it is the country which is sick. For them, individuals are not important, they consider that education in Russia is still in the Soviet mould. And that there is still cruelty in the country and that prison is a miniature of Russia itself”.

Since their arrests earlier this year, support for the three woman has swelled both inside and outside Russia, particularly since the trial got underway at the end of July. Many musicians joined calls for them to be freed, including other members of the band, Madonna, Björk and, just yesterday, Paul McCartney.

In a letter published on Facebook, the former Beatle wrote: “I’m writing to show my support for you at this difficult time. I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest. Many people in the civilised world are allowed to voice their opinions and as long as they do not hurt anyone in doing so I believe this is the best way forward for all societies. I hope you can stay strong and believe that I and many others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in our power to support you and the idea of artistic freedom”.

Critics of the trial have accused the Russian government of pushing for disproportionate punishment designed to frighten opponents of president Vladimir Putin, rather than actually serve justice. Also, it’s been noted that it is unusual for people to be held in prison for five months while awaiting trial for over charges such as theirs – particularly as two of the women have young children.

As the verdict was read out, protesters around the world took part in events around the world to show support for Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich – many wearing brightly coloured balaclavas, similar to the band’s own trademark headwear.

Originally expected at 12pm, the verdict was delayed as a number of protestors outside Moscow’s Khamovnichesky Court, including opposition leader Sergey Udaltsov and chess champion Gary Kasparov, were arrested by police.

Updated 17 Aug 2.58pm to include details of sentencing.



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