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Russian prosecutors ask for 3 years in punk case

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-08-07/russia-punk-rockers-trial/56857912/1 Russian prosecutors ask for 3 years in punk case By Nataliya
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 7, 2012

      Russian prosecutors ask for 3 years in punk case
      By Nataliya Vasilyeva, Associated Press

      MOSCOW – Prosecutors on Tuesday called for three-year sentences for the
      members of a feminist punk band who performed an anti-Vladimir Putin
      stunt in Moscow's main cathedral, ignoring demands by human rights
      groups that the three women be set free.

      Defense lawyers and an influential Russian Orthodox cleric warned that
      jail time for the women could backfire by severing trust between
      ordinary Russians and the country's institutions.

      Prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov portrayed his request as lenient, saying
      the recommendation takes into account the fact that two of the
      defendants are young mothers and that they have good character references.

      The hooliganism charges the three women of the Pussy Riot band face can
      carry a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

      The three women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and
      Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 — have been in custody for five months
      following the February stunt, in which they took over a church pulpit in
      Christ the Savior cathedral for less than a minute, singing,
      high-kicking and dancing.

      Their case is part of a widening government crackdown on dissent that
      followed Putin's election in March and caused strong protests in Russia
      and abroad. Musicians including Madonna, the Who's Pete Townshend and
      Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys have urged their release.

      The verdict is expected this week.

      The defendants have said their goal was to express their resentment over
      Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin's rule. But
      prosecutors have insisted throughout the trial that there were no
      political motives behind the performance.

      "They set themselves off against the Orthodox world and sought to
      devalue traditions and dogmas that have been formed for the centuries,"
      Nikiforov said Tuesday.

      Members of the band say they did not mean to hurt anyone's religious
      feelings when they performed the "punk prayer."

      Larisa Pavlova, a lawyer for the church employees who were described as
      the injured party in the case told the court on Tuesday that she
      supports the sentencing recommendation.

      Pavlova said most hooliganism in Russia is committed when people are
      drunk and they often regret what they have done — but the defendants
      "thoroughly planned, rehearsed (their performance) and were fully aware
      of what they were doing."

      "And they had the audacity to say in court that they did the right
      thing, that it's OK and that they're ready to keep on doing such
      things," Pavlova said.

      Tolokonnikova chuckled as Pavlova mentioned in her speech that feminism
      in Russia is incompatible with Orthodox faith.

      Pussy Riot lawyer Violetta Volkova voiced the band's complaint that the
      women had been deprived of sleep and food throughout the trial,
      describing it as "torture."

      "In this trial, authorities, not the girls, have dealt a crushing blow
      on the Russian Orthodox Church," Volkova said. "Time has turned back —
      back to the Middle Ages."

      The trial has sharply divided Russia. Some believers felt insulted by
      the act, while others believe they are innocents who are being treated

      Mark Feygin, a lawyer for the band, argued that a guilty verdict would
      "break a bond between the government and people for good" and that
      "society will never forgive the state for persecuting the innocent."

      Orthodox leaders have ignored calls by many believers to pardon the
      women and urge the court to dismiss the case.

      Archdeacon Andrei Kurayev, an influential Orthodox blogger and Professor
      of the Moscow Theological Academy, warned in an interview with the RIA
      Novosti news agency on Tuesday that jail time for the three would "turn
      them into martyrs" and would only feed hostility toward the Church.

      Meanwhile, Russian Internet users were fuming over a video of Putin
      visiting a northern Russian monastery on Monday where a priest kneeled
      down to kiss his hand.

      Though Putin was visibly annoyed by the display of deference, many
      Russians felt the incident accurately portrayed a too-cozy relationship
      between the leader and the Orthodox church.

      The church said that the priest was from Macedonia, where it's not
      unusual for men of the cloth to kiss the hands of laymen as a sign of
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