Pussy Riot found guilty of hooliganism

The three women will be sentenced later today

Pussy Riot found guilty of hooliganism

Photo: PA

Three members of Pussy Riot have been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and jailed for two years.

The verdict was delivered to Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 at Moscow's Khamovnichesky Court today (August 17). Prosecutors had requested a three-year prison term in the event of a guilty verdict.

Judge Marina Syrova said the actions of the women had "crudely undermined social order". In summing up the prosecution, she said they had offended the feelings of the Orthodox church and shown a "complete lack of respect". She added, "Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism - in other words, a grave violation of public order."

Summing up the defence case, she had said, "It was a small act but maybe not a very elegant act but they consider that it is the country which is sick. For them, individuals are not important, they consider that education in Russia is still in the Soviet mould. And that there is still cruelty in the country and that prison is a miniature of Russia itself."

The three women were detained after they, along with other members of the band, staged a flashmob-style performance where they sang a song called 'Holy Shit' at the altar of Moscow’s Christ The Saviour Cathedral on February 21. They were protesting against the Orthodox Christian church's support for president Vladimir Putin, and begged the Virgin Mary to "deliver us from Putin". But the judge said that prayers in a Russian cathedral can only be offered by a preist, and so their prayer-as-protest was against church rules. Watch the performance at the bottom of the page.

Large numbers of their supporters, as well as their opponents, had assembled outside the court building. Earlier today, Russian opposition leader Sergey Udaltsov was detained by police as he approached the police cordon and attempted to enter the court building. Russian chess player Garry Kasparov is also believed to have been arrested. Meanwhile, a protest has been underway outside the Russian embassy in London, marshalled by members of the Occupy London movement.

Speaking as the nine-day trial concluded, band member Tolokonnikova had said: "This is a trial of the whole government system of Russia, which so likes to show its harshness toward the individual, its indifference to his honour and dignity… If this political system throws itself against three girls… it shows this political system is afraid of truth."

She added: "Maybe they think it wouldn't be wrong to try us for speaking against Putin and his system, but they can't say that because it's been forbidden."

Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina later told the court: "I am not scared of you. I'm not scared of lies and fiction, or the badly formed deception that is the verdict of this so-called court. Because my words will live, thanks to openness… When thousands of people will read and watch this, this freedom will grow with every caring person who listens to us in this country."





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