Pussy Riot prosecution calls for jail term

Russian prosecutors ask for three-year sentence for the punk group who protested in a cathedral against Vladimir Putin.

    A Russian state prosecutor has asked a Moscow court to impose three-year jail sentences on three women from the Pussy Riot punk band who performed a "punk prayer" in an orthodox cathedral.

    Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, could have faced a maximum sentence of seven years for storming the altar of Moscow's main Christ the Saviour cathedral on February 21.

    While in the cathedral the woman belted out a "punk prayer" calling on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin, who is now president.

    "The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity," state prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said in
    closing arguments on Tuesday. "Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."

    Given the "severity" of the crime, he said, the "requisite punishment must be a real deprivation of freedom," said Nikiforov. 

    The prosecution of the Pussy Riot band members has caused a sharp public divide and drawn protests from rights groups who have declared them prisoners of conscience.

    On Monday, Violetta Volkova, the women's lawyer, criticised the way the trial was being conducted.

    "I myself witnessed how the journalists were sent away, kicked downstairs," she said.

    "I saw how one of the trial participants was simply beaten, the special forces broke his phone while kicking him downstairs, it was totally unacceptable behaviour, and I cannot explain it because there can be no proper explanation for this."

    Putin, who was re-elected president in March, called for leniency towards the women during a visit to London for the Olympic Games.

    But the case has caused an international outcry and focused attention on a crackdown on dissent since Putin returned to the presidency for a six-year term on May 7.

    The European Union accused Russia on Tuesday of intimidation of judges and witnesses in the trial, and said the case breached international judicial standards.  

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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