Prosecutor wants 3-yr jail term for Pussy Riot

A state prosecutor demanded a three-year jail sentence for three women from the punk band Pussy Riot who stormed the altar of Moscow's main cathedral and sang a "punk prayer" denouncing Vladimir Putin's close links to the Russian Orthodox Church.

The three had been charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in a trial that has focused attention on a crackdown on dissent since Putin's return to the presidency in May.

Prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov did not press the court for the maximum seven-year sentence after Putin said Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, should not be judged too harshly.

But Nikiforov ignored pleas by the opposition and human rights groups not to seek jail terms over the protest in which the trio belted out a song on February 21 urging the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

"The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity," Nikiforov said in closing arguments at the trial. "Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."
"There was real mockery and humiliation directed at the people in the church."

The band's stunt infuriated church leaders and the Kremlin and upset many Orthodox Christian believers for whom the Christ the Saviour Cathedral is a sacred place of worship and its pulpit a place reserved exclusively for priests.

Russian opposition leaders say the trial is part of a wider crackdown on dissent by Putin after the biggest protests since he rose to power in 2000.

The case has caused an outcry abroad and international musicians including Madonna, Sting and Red Hot Chili Peppers have appealed for leniency.

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