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Russian punk band members sentenced to two years in prison

August 17, 2012|By Todd Martens
  • The members of Pussy Riot -- Maria Alyokhina, left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- in a Moscow courtroom after their sentencing.
The members of Pussy Riot -- Maria Alyokhina, left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova… (AFP / Getty Images )

After being found guilty of hooliganism Friday morning, the three young members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot were each sentenced to two years in prison by a Moscow judge. The band faced a maximum of seven years. 

Amid a volatile atmosphere outside the courthouse that reportedly included hundreds of supporters, Judge Marina Syrova in her sentencing said the three women "committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred," according to Associated Press reports.

The three women -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- had argued that they were taking a stand against the Russian Orthodox Church's support for Vladimir Putin and were not seeking to offend religious believers. 

PHOTOS: Russian punk rockers on trial

The women were charged with hooliganism after performing an unapproved, impromptu set at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow in February. At the performance, the band commandeered the altar during services to perform its single "Mother of God, Drive Putin Out."

After the charges were read, a spectator in the courtroom was said to have shouted "shame," reported the Associated Press. The judge called the band members' actions "a grave violation of public order, showing obvious disrespect for society," the Wall Street Journal reported.

Human Amnesty International, which had earlier delivered 70,000 petitions in support of the band to the Russian Embassy in Washington, released a statement condemning the decision. 

"Today's verdict is a travesty," said Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs for Amnesty International in the United States. "The decision to find guilty Maria, Ekaterina and Nadezhda amid global outrage shows that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle civil society."

Members of the Western music community had voiced support for the band in recent days, with artists as diverse as Paul McCartney, Bjork, Madonna and Sting speaking out.

Experimental electronic artist Peaches, who has been participating in rallies to support Pussy Riot, tweeted, "The only thing these women are guilty of is telling the truth."

"Shameful, unjust verdict," tweeted punk guitarist and Wild Flag/Sleater-Kinney principal Carrie Brownstein shortly after the sentencing was made public. "Yet it’s a reminder to be fearless, unabashed participants. Sending solidarity."

ALSO:

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