'Pussy Riot' could get three years

Tue, Aug 7, 2012, 01:00

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 a church.

"The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity," state prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said in closing arguments today.

"Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."

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 cathedral on February 21st and belting out a "punk prayer".

But Mr Nikiforov ignored pleas by the opposition and human rights groups not to seek jail terms over the protest.

The song calls on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Vladimir Putin, who won another term as president earlier this year.

"The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity," Mr Nikiforov said in closing arguments at the trial. "Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."

"There was real mockery and humiliation directed at the people in the church."

The band's stunt infuriated church leaders and the Kremlin and upset many Orthodox Christian believers for whom the Christ the Saviour Cathedral is a sacred place of worship and its pulpit a place reserved exclusively for priests.

Russian opposition leaders say the trial is part of a wider crackdown on dissent by Mr Putin after the biggest protests since he rose to power in 2000.

The case has caused an outcry abroad and international musicians including Madonna, Sting and Red Hot Chili Peppers have appealed for leniency.

Reuters