Russian Court Finds Punk Band Guilty of Hooliganism

Posted August 17th, 2012 at 9:10 am (UTC-5)
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A Russian judge has found guilty three women from a small punk band who were charged with hooliganism for performing a song in a church ridiculing President Vladimir Putin.

The court was expected to hand down a sentence for the women from the band Pussy Riot later Friday.

Prosecutors want the Moscow court to give them a three-year sentence, rather than the maximum seven years. The women say their performance at the city's main cathedral was meant to protest the strong ties between the Orthodox church and the government.

Outside the courthouse, police have arrested some of the hundreds of people gathered to demonstrate support for the band — including some prominent opposition activists such as former world chess champion Garry Kasparov.

Mr. Putin's critics say the trial is an example of Russia's intolerance for dissent. The judge said the guilty verdict was based on the conclusion that the women had motives of religious hatred.

The three entered Christ the Savior Cathedral in February, where they staged an impromptu performance of a song with lyrics that call 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 has 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.