One Pussy Riot member freed on court appeal

Freedom at last

A member of punk band Pussy Riot was freed on appeal on Wednesday but a Moscow court upheld prison sentences for two others imposed over a raucous cathedral protest against Vladimir Putin, who said they had got the jail terms they deserved.

Moscow City Court confirmed the two-year prison sentences handed down to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina but suspended the sentence on Yekaterina Samutsevich. Her lawyer told the court that Samutsevich had not performed the ‘punk protest’ near the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February because she had been stopped and led away before it took place.

In emotional statements from a courtroom cage during the appeal hearing, women from the band had earlier said they had not meant to offend the faithful with their actions but criticized the courts and the Kremlin chief. “Putin is doing everything for the development of civil war in this country,” said Tolokonnikova, raising her voice to try to drown out a judge who tried to interrupt her as she began to talk about Putin.

Tolokonnikova, 22, Alyokhina, 24, and Samutsevich, 30, were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a “punk prayer” imploring the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, and sentenced to two years in jail.

The case sparked an international outcry, with Western governments and pop star Madonna condemning the sentences as disproportionate, a view not widely shared in Russia where public opinion was shocked by the protest.

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