2 Years in Prison for Russian Punk Band ‘Hooliganism’

Posted August 17th, 2012 at 11:15 am (UTC-5)
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A Russian judge has handed down a sentence of two years in prison for the members of an all-female punk band who performed a song ridiculing President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

The three members of Pussy Riot smiled and laughed in the moments after they were sentenced for “hooliganism driven by religious hatred.” The women say their performance was meant to protest the strong ties between the Orthodox church and the government, not to show disrespect to the church.

Outside the courthouse, police have arrested some of the hundreds of people gathered to support the band. Among those detained are leftist opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, who is a strong critic of Mr. Putin.

Another group of people outside the courthouse yelled support for the verdict, saying the women insulted religious believers.

The three entered Christ the Savior Cathedral in February, where they staged an impromptu performance of a song with lyrics that called on the Virgin Mary to deliver them from Vladimir Putin, who at the time was running for the Russian presidency. The three were arrested in March and have been jailed since.

The case prompted calls for leniency from an array of international musicians, celebrities, and ordinary Russians. Last week, President Putin said he did not favor harsh punishment for members of the band.