News / Europe

Russian Prosecutor Calls for Jail for Musician Protestors

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Yekaterina Samutsevich (C) and Maria Alyokhina, members of female punk band 'Pussy Riot,' attend their trial in a court in Moscow, August 3, 2012.Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Yekaterina Samutsevich (C) and Maria Alyokhina, members of female punk band 'Pussy Riot,' attend their trial in a court in Moscow, August 3, 2012.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Yekaterina Samutsevich (C) and Maria Alyokhina, members of female punk band 'Pussy Riot,' attend their trial in a court in Moscow, August 3, 2012.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Yekaterina Samutsevich (C) and Maria Alyokhina, members of female punk band 'Pussy Riot,' attend their trial in a court in Moscow, August 3, 2012.
MOSCOW — A state prosecutor in Russia called on the judge at the Khamovnichesky [Moscow] District Court to give three young protest musicians in the band Pussy Riot a three-year sentence for singing a punk prayer against President Vladimir Putin at Russia’s most prominent Orthodox church.

In closing arguments, Federal Prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said that 22-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnilkova, 24-year-old Maria Alyokhnia and 29-year-old Yekaterina Samutsevich had abused God when they performed their punk rock song on the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral by using swear words in church.

Nikiforov went on to say that the young women’s actions showed religious hatred and that the band members humiliated and mocked members of Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church.

Band members have been charged with hooliganism and have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, the charge carries up to seven years in prison.

Watch related video of trial

The three young women have apologized for offending the church, but say they were just trying to express their own opinion when they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver them from Putin.

The group's lawyer, Mark Feigin, said their apology will have little or no effect on the case because he believes legal authorities already have decided they will be found guilty. Meanwhile, Putin has called for leniency in the case. Feigin said Putin's statement is unlikely to change the verdict or sentencing.

Feigin said the judge is biased towards the prosecutors. He said his clients likely will be given their sentences soon and they likely will be sent to a penal colony. He said he believes Putin's statement was made to ease concerns about the impact of the case.  

The trial of the three musician activists has generated worldwide condemnation, and is seen by many as a test case for Putin and his tolerance of dissent in Russia. There have been widespread protests in recent months - the largest since the collapse of the Soviet Union - about how Russia's presidential election was carried out earlier this year. Critics of Putin say he won the vote by fraud and that he rules the country through a tightly controlled political system that relies on corruption to achieve its goals. The Kremlin denies all of the claims.

As a verdict in the trial gets closer, more and more attention is being focused on it. Kerry McCarthy, a member of parliament from the British Labour Party, said her constituents are paying close attention.  

"I think a lot of people in the U.K. didn't take it very seriously until quite recently. They saw the TV coverage, they thought, well, it's quite a silly stunt, it's just people sort of messing around," said McCarthy. "But I think now the attention is focused on it, people do think that it says quite a lot about human rights in Russia and about the protest movement, and to what extent the authorities will tolerate certain forms of protest. And so I think therefore, that's the reason why in some ways it's gained significance beyond what it was originally all about. And that is why the world is watching very closely."

A verdict is expected to be handed down this week and Russia's opposition says it already is planning to protest the expected outcome.

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Comment Sorting
by: RJ Salo from: Anaheim Hills
August 08, 2012 3:33 PM
FREE PUSSY RIOT-the harshest that this be could possibly be considered is a victimless crime, if a crime at all. The trial was a farce. As ridiclulous as our government is, we can at least protest it without being sent to the gulags. Poor girls......FREE PUSSY RIOT!!!

by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
August 07, 2012 9:46 PM
The farcical “trial” with predetermined verdict says a lot about Putin’s Russia where right of heavenly God as if “supporting” Putin takes priority over human rights. As a result Russia became a classic example of failed state where crashed human rights delivered once self sustained country into backward economy, science & technology, education & healthcare. Even in Olympic Games the largest country drags in fifth place in Medal Table.

by: Jim Mooney from: Apache Junction, AZ
August 07, 2012 7:34 PM
This is a joke. The Tyrant will not be mocked. Some of the nastiest porn on the planet is coming out of Russia, with full approval of the moneymen and the politicians. And they suddenly have religion? Putin/Hitler - no difference. Putin just wears a nicer mask to hide his evil.

by: Carlos.. from: California
August 07, 2012 1:53 PM
These girls are just what are needed to give publicity to the Kremlin dictators .. President Obama just follows the Kremlin's edicts on action against the Syrian dictator's mass murder .. these girls have more coward than the man in the White House ..

Compare what they did to what the Kremlin's jailer's did to Sergei Magnitsky when he discovered the theft of $250 million from the Russian treasury .. he was murdered in jail .. and what did President Obama say about that ..? absolutely nothing ...

America should be siding with the weak and oppressed .. not keeping their dictators in Syria and the Kremlin in power .. but that takes guts .. like these three girls ..
In Response

by: Rick from: Virginia
August 07, 2012 7:12 PM
@Carlos: This article has nothing to do with President Obama, to try to mix the President of the United States into this topic is to say that you don't understand this information at all. This is about Russian citizens staging a small protest and having the Russian government abuse their power in order to quell the voices of opposition. It demonstrates that Russia is no democracy, but rather has a corrupt neo-facist government that pretends to be democratic. Holding 3 girls in jail without any sort of hearing until now, and getting ready to send them off to a penal colony for 3 to 7 years for their little protest stunt. Its ridiculous and scary. I have visited Russia several times in the past few years and I can tell you that it is not a democratic country... the people of Russia want it to be, but the few in charge will never let their stranglehold grip off of the government. No matter where you go you never feel quite comfortable there because at any moment someone in a uniform or with a badge can just take you away for whatever reason they want. Its not much different than it used to be when it was openly communist/facist.
In Response

by: Carlos from: US
August 07, 2012 4:08 PM
should have written "these girls have more COURAGE than the man in the White House ...

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