"Shame!": Rockers Pussy Riot Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

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Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot have been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after appearing in court today (August 17th 2012) following their trial for anti-government activism in a church. They will each serve two years in prison, starting from the day of their arrest, reports the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The all-female punk group were arrested in March accused of hooliganism after performing an anti-government protest song at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow addressing the Virgin Mary and appealing to her that the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, be 'driven away'. The three group members, Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, pleaded not guilty to the charges pressed against them and insisted that the song was not intended to cause offence to the Christian community, who understandably reacted with anger towards their actions, but was meant in opposition to the re-election campaign. 'Pussy Riot never means to show any disrespect to any viewers or witnesses of our punk concerts', wrote Tolokonnikova in a statement on the 'Free Pussy Riot' website. 'We are not enemies of Christianity. We care about the opinion of Orthodox Christians. Our performance contained no aggression towards the audience, but only a desperate desire to change the political situation in Russia for the better.' The court arrested that 'The women were motivated by religious enmity and hatred, and acted provocatively and in an insulting manner inside a religious building in the presence of a large number of believers', though cries of "Shame!" were heard in court as the sentencing was passed.

There have been protests by Pussy Riot activists in numerous cities across Europe as the verdict was awaited. Feminists in Kiev, Ukraine cut down a wooden cross with a chainsaw to show support, in Sofia and Bulgaria supporters put coloured balaclavas on Soviet-era statues that looked like the ones Pussy Riot wore at the time of their performance. Various musicians from around the word had reached out to Pussy Riot and shown their support. The legendary Paul McCartney wrote a letter to the women in custody hoping that the law would be relaxed to allow this demonstration of freedom of speech. 'I would like you to know that I very much Hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest', he wrote. Queen of Pop Madonna also made an announcement during her MDNA gig in Moscow in support of the Free Pussy Riot campaign.


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