Pussy Riot Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

Russian judge deems the girl group 'crudely undermined social order' after staging a protest against president Vladimir Putin.

Three members of Russian punk act Pussy Riot were found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” on Friday (August 17), after being arrested for speaking out against the country’s president, Vladimir Putin.

Pussy Riot members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in jail by a judge, who deemed they had “crudely undermined social order” in a February protest. In that incident, part of a movement against the re-election of Putin, the three women entered a Russian Orthodox Church, bowed to the altar, and then began performing a “Punk Prayer,” which asked the Virgin Mary to “drive Putin away.”

Judge Marina Syrova ruled that the three women “have deliberately placed themselves against Orthodox believers,” and that their actions “violated the common rules of behavior in the cathedral,” according to England’s The Guardian. When the judge read their sentence, shouts of “Shame!” went up in the courthouse, while outside, supporters of the band clashed with Russian police.

The group — who perform with faces covered in balaclavas to protect their identities — often stage politically charged impromptu blitzkriegs in Russia, and those actions have put them at the forefront of Russia’s growing civil unrest at a time when the country has been cracking down on all manner of protest. (On the same day Pussy Riot was sentenced, a Moscow court also upheld a controversial “100 year ban” on Gay Pride marches in the city.)

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich were arrested by Russian police in March, and their subsequent five-month detention drew international attention. A host of musicians — including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys and Madonna, who angered Russian authorities by voicing her support during a Moscow concert earlier this month — have called for their freedom.

Members of the German parliament, 120 in total, sent a letter of support, and Amnesty International called them “prisoners of conscience,” adding that they were “in serious danger of being shipped off to a labor camp, where they risk both physical and sexual abuse.”

Following the sentencing, Amnesty International released a statement calling the decision “a travesty.” “The decision … shows that the Russian authorities will stop at no end to suppress dissent and stifle society,” Amnesty’s Michelle Ringuette said. “It’s a bitter blow to freedom in Russia. Amnesty International will not allow these women to be silenced. They will not be forgotten.”

The judge ordered that the three women’s prison terms will be retroactively dated to the time of their arrest.

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