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You're reading: Russian prosecutors ask for 3 years in punk case

MOSCOW — Prosecutors on Tuesday called for three-year sentences for the members of a feminist punk band who performed an anti-Vladimir Putin stunt in Moscow's main cathedral, ignoring demands by human rights groups that the three women be set free.

Prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov
portrayed the request as lenient, saying it takes into account the fact
that two of the defendants are young mothers and that they have good
references.

The hooliganism charges the three women face can carry a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

The
three women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and
Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 — have been in custody for five months
following the February stunt, in which they took over a church pulpit in
Christ the Savior cathedral for less than a minute, singing,
high-kicking and dancing.

Their case is part of a widening
government crackdown on dissent that followed Putin’s election in March
and caused strong protests in Russia and abroad. Musicians including
Madonna, the Who’s Pete Townshend and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys
have urged their release.

The verdict is expected this week.

The
defendants have said their goal was to express their resentment over
Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill’s support for Putin’s rule. But
prosecutors have insisted throughout the trial that there were no
political motives behind the performance.

“They set themselves off
against the Orthodox world and sought to devalue traditions and dogmas
that have been formed for the centuries,” Nikiforov said Tuesday.

Members of the band say they did not mean to hurt anyone’s religious feelings when they performed the “punk prayer.”

Larisa
Pavlova, a lawyer for the church employees who were described as the
injured party in the case told the court on Tuesday that she supports
the sentencing recommendation.

Pavlova said most hooliganism in
Russia is committed when people are drunk and they often regret what
they have done — but the defendants “thoroughly planned, rehearsed
(their performance) and were fully aware of what they were doing.”

“And
they had the audacity to say in court that they did the right thing,
that it’s OK and that they’re ready to keep on doing such things,”
Pavlova said.

Tolokonnikova chuckled as Pavlova mentioned in her speech that feminism in Russia is incompatible with Orthodox faith.

The
trial has sharply divided Russia. Some believers felt insulted by the
act, while rights groups have declared the women prisoners of
conscience.

Orthodox leaders have ignored calls by many believers to pardon the women and urge the court to dismiss the case.

Russian
veteran rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva told the Interfax news
agency that a jail sentence for Pussy Riot would be “a disgrace for
Russia and the Orthodox Church.”

Amnesty International has said it
considers the three women to be prisoners of conscience “detained
solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.”

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