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October 01, 2012

Moscow Court Postpones Jail Sentence Appeal by Punk-Rock Band

by Jessica Golloher

An appeal by three punk-rock musicians convicted of hooliganism for protesting the rule of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been postponed by a Moscow court. The members of the Pussy Riot band are appealing their two-year jail term.

A Moscow court judge said the appeal is being postponed until October 10th, after band-member Yekaterina Samutsevich said she fired her lawyers due to an unspecified disagreement.

The prosecution says Samutsevich is merely trying to delay the appeal. In August, the three female punk rockers were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

They were arrested on the altar of Russia’s most prominent Orthodox cathedral, after they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver them from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Band members say they were merely voicing their opinion and did not mean to offend anyone. The Russian Orthodox Church said in a statement Sunday that if the women repented, it would not go unnoticed by the courts.

Recently, following intense public criticism about the case, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said that he thought the punishment was very strict.

Putin also asked the court to go easy on the women, but some analysts say the comments from the administration were just for show. Lawyers for the women say they believe the charges are politically motivated and doubt they will receive a softer sentence.

Last week, Russia’s lower house of parliament adopted a declaration that says vandalism against church property, the killing of spiritual leaders and blasphemous acts of hooliganism pose a threat to the country’s security and must be countered.