Female Punk rock band appeals conviction, Russian church critical

Mon Aug 27, 2012 1:50pm EDT
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A lawyer for the jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot on Monday appealed against the three women's conviction for a protest against President Vladimir Putin at a church altar, but said he had little hope the verdict would be overturned.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after their February protest in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral.

The two-year prison sentences handed down to the activists for a "punk prayer" asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin have drawn sharp criticism from Western governments and musicians who say they should not be jailed.

Kremlin critics have called the jailing of the young women part of a clampdown that shows Putin will have little tolerance for dissent in a six-year presidential term he started in May following the biggest protests of his 12-year rule.

"If the court abides by the law it would throw out the verdict," said defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov.

"But being realists, understanding all the efforts the state has put into this case, we think it's unlikely the verdict will be overturned," he told Reuters by telephone.

Polozov said he hopes the sentences will be shortened or made conditional, meaning the women would be released instead of serving the 19 months or so that remain in their two-year sentences following their jailing in March.

But he said he has seen signs of a backlash against the Western support that may not bode well for softer sentences.   Continued...

Members of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" (R-L) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina sit in a glass-walled cage after a court hearing in Moscow, August 17, 2012. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov