Band awaits verdict

10 August 2012

by a staff reporter

PROSECUTORS in the case of the three women accused of desecrating the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, in Moscow, with their performance of a "punk prayer", have demanded a three-year prison sentence for the offence.

The women are members of the band Pussy Riot. Protesters stormed a service at the cathedral in February to perform a song that called on the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out" (News, Comment, 3 August).

The stunt was designed to highlight the close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin, then Prime Minister, whose campaign to return to the presidency was supported by the leader of the Church, Patriarch Kirill.

The trial of Marya Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich has attracted worldwide attention. On Tuesday, prosecutors called for them to receive a three-year prison sentence. On Wednesday, the judge said that he would issue a verdict next Friday.

The women have apologised for their actions, but Patriarch Kirill has said that the act amounted to blasphemy.

The state prosecutor, Alexei Nikiforov, said on Tuesday: "The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity. Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."

Concerns over their five-month detention have been raised by the European Union; and the women have won the support of performers such as Sting and Madonna. The latter is performing in Moscow and St Petersburg next week.

President Putin, speaking during a visit to the Olympic Games in London last week, called for leniency.

The trial has been interpreted by opposition activists in Russia as an attempt to crack down on any dissent in Russia against the presidential regime.

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