Pussy Riot three sentenced to two years in jail each

Outrage as Moscow court jails three members of punk protest band for 'hooliganism'

LAST UPDATED AT 15:06 ON Fri 17 Aug 2012

THREE members of Russian political punk band Pussy Riot have been found guilty of 'hooliganism' by a Russian court and sentenced to two years each in jail after they sang an anti-Putin song in Russia's main orthodox cathedral.

The three women now have ten days to appeal the sentence. As the sentence was announced just before 3pm UK time, a single male voice shouted "Shame! Shame!" in the packed courtroom.

Protests took place outside the courtroom and around the world this afternoon as the judge read the extremely long summing-up and verdict. There were demonstrations outside Russian embassies across Europe, including the UK.

Amnesty International called the sentences “a bitter blow for expression” in Russia, adding: “We believe their sentencing was about them daring to criticise the authorities, not any religious offence.”

Blogger Anna Chen tweeted that today is the publishing anniversary for George Orwell's Animal Farm. “Who says Putin has no sense of humour?” she asked.

Former chess champion Gary Kasparov was arrested outside Moscow's Khamovnichesky court, though his Facebook page said he had come to watch the trial, not to protest – it also claimed he had been beaten up by police. Russian opposition leader Sergey Udaltsov was also arrested outside the court.

After more than two hours on their feet in a courtroom reported to be as hot as 39C, listening to the verbose verdict, the three women still looked cheerful - though they have complained in the past of being deprived of sleep and food while in detention.

Judge Marina Syrova said that Pussy Riot "committed a serious breach of public order, motivated by religious hatred" and engaged in "provocative and insulting acts in a religious building", said The Guardian. The women said their actions were purely political.

The crime of hooliganism carries a minimum sentence of two years, and that’s exactly what the judge handed down to the three women - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, even thought two of them have young children.

According to AFP, Russian human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseeva reacted to the guilty verdict without surprise, telling Dozhd television: "I knew it would be a guilty verdict. In Russia, if the accused are put in prison before trial, it means a guaranteed verdict of guilty."

She added that she regretted that Russian authorities and leaders of the Orthodox church had not considered the "consequences of the verdict for their reputation".

As the guilty verdict was announced, reported AFP, Mark Feiguine, a lawyer for Pussy Riot, tweeted: "We condemn them [the Russian authorities]. We must have no illusions. But no one is afraid." · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.