Russian prosecutor seeks jail terms for female punk rock band

Tue Aug 7, 2012 12:22pm EDT
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By Maria Tsvetkova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A state prosecutor on Tuesday demanded a three-year jail term for three women from punk band Pussy Riot, saying they had abused God when they burst into a Moscow cathedral and sang a "protest prayer" against the Russian Orthodox Church's close links to Vladimir Putin.

The protest performed on the cathedral altar, which led to the three being charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, outraged many Russian Orthodox believers.

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.

Federal prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov dismissed the women's argument that their protest was not intended to offend believers and was aimed at highlighting the church's support for Putin.

"Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God," he said in closing arguments, watched by the women's lawyers, family and friends, packed into a tiny Moscow court. "The insult is not to Putin but to the social group of Orthodox Christian believers."

He said the actions clearly showed religious hatred and enmity and, deriding them as feminists who should be isolated from society, he added: "There was real mockery and humiliation directed at the people in the church."

Nikiforov did not press the court for the maximum seven-year sentence. Putin said last week that Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had done "nothing good" but should not be judged too harshly.   Continued...

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (3rd R), Yekaterina Samutsevich (2nd R) and Maria Alyokhina (R), members of female punk band "Pussy Riot", attend their trial inside the defendant's cell in a court in Moscow August 3, 2012. President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that three women on trial for a protest performance in Russia's main cathedral should not be judged too harshly, signaling he did not favor lengthy prison terms for the Pussy Riot band members, Russian news agencies reported. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov