'Pussy Riot' Found Guilty of Hooliganism After Vladimir Putin Protest

 @jiillx
on August 17 2012 9:42 AM

Judge Marina Syrova convicted all three members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot of hooliganism "based on motives of religious hated and enmity" on Friday in Moscow during one of the most hotly debated Russian trials in recent years. Syrova is withholding sentences for the three women until later Friday, but state prosecutors, not to mention Russian President Vladimir Putin, have asked for a three-year prison sentence. The maximum sentence, under Russian law, is 7 years.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, have been in jail since March, when they were arrested for their Feb. 21 guerrilla performance, on the altar of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral, protesting Putin and his close relationship to the Russian Orthodox Church. Their filmed performance included a "punk prayer" and an appeal to the Virgin Mary, to oust Putin from office.

Putin, who has been in a seat of power in Russia for over 13 years, has drawn criticism from opponents for bridging the gap between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Pussy Riot case has drawn global attention, including support for the women from legions of free speech advocates, musicians,  and celebrities like Madonna, Sting, and Paul McCartney. In New York last night, in anticipation of the imminent verdict, supporters including Chloe Sevigny and Justin Vivian Bond gathered at the Ace Hotel to read courtroom statements from the defendants, Gothamist reported.

On Friday, in a protest in Kiev, topless women's rights protesters used a chainsaw to cut down a cross in the city's center, according to Reuters. Activist Inna Shevchenko said, "No business, not even one as successful as the church, has the right to attack women's rights."

Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov, who formed the United Civil Front Movement and publicly opposed Putin, was arrested for protesting outside the courthouse on Friday.

But many close observers speculate that the immense attention the case has drawn is unlikely to sway the outcome. "Imagine some 500 people and journalists are gathered near the courthouse and then they walk out triumphantly like victors," Zoya Svetova told  Moscow's The New Times. "That would be impossible for Putin's system."

In her closing statement for the trial, Tolokonnikova, arguably the most outspoken of the three defendants, read aloud, "To my deepest regret, this mock trial is close to the standards of the Stalinist troikas."

"Who is to blame for the performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and for our being put on trial after the concert?," she asked the court. "The authoritarian political system is to blame. What Pussy Riot does is oppositional art or politics."

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