Guilty Verdict for Pussy Riot Slap On Wrist If Putin Decides Pardon

Russian punk rock band “Pussy Riot” found guilty by a Moscow court. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, a philosophy graduate, Maria Alekhina, 24, a charity worker and environmental activist and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, a computer programming graduate have all been convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, over a protest in a cathedral.

While judge Marina Syrova said the women had “crudely undermined social order” during their action in February, the women say their “punk prayer” was a political act in protest against the Russian Orthodox Church leader’s support of President Vladimir Putin.

Prosecutor intend to seek a three-year jail sentence. Judge Syrova said the trio had offended the feelings of Orthodox believers and shown a “complete lack of respect.” “Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed hooliganism – in other words, a grave violation of public order,” she said.

The judge quoted prosecution witnesses as saying that no anti-Putin song had been performed and that the act had been one of blasphemy, not politics.

Speaking before the verdict, Samutsevich said irrespective of the outcome the trial had highlighted what she saw as the oppressive nature of the Putin administration.

Along with other members of their band, the women staged a flashmob-style performance of their song close to the altar in the cathedral on 21 February.

Their brief, obscenity-laced performance, which implored the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out”, enraged the Orthodox Church – its leader Patriarch Kirill said it amounted to blasphemy.

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova and Samutsevich, watching proceedings from inside a glass-walled cage in the courtroom, smiled as the widely predicted verdict was delivered.

On Thursday, Tolokonnikova had said she was “not bitter about being in jail”. But, speaking through her lawyer on Twitter, she said: “Politically, I am furious.”

“Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country,” she said.

The women have been detained for the past five months.

Their defence lawyer said before the hearing that they were hoping for an acquittal, “but they are ready to continue to fight”.

Large crowds of supporters have gathered outside the court in Moscow, including prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Associated Press news agency said a number of protesters had been arrested, including ex-world chess champion Garry Kasparov and opposition politician Sergei Udaltsov.

There were also pro-Pussy Riot protests in Paris, where demonstrators in Igor Stravinsky square chanted “Freedom”, and in Kiev, where women protesters sawed down a wooden cross in a central square.

The band has also had vocal support from artists including Paul McCartney and Madonna, and from politicians.

Critics of the band are also demonstrating. They say the band’s stunt was an insult to Russian Orthodox believers.

One protester outside court in Moscow shouted: “Let Pussy Riot and all their supporters burn in hell.”

In an earlier interview with a Russian newspaper, Tolokonnikova said she does not believe she and her friends will get a fair trial. “I don’t believe in a court ruling as such. There is no trial. It’s an illusion,” she said.

When asked whether the Pussy Riot activists intend to ask President Vladimir Putin to pardon them, Tolokonnikova said: “Putin? Are you kidding me? No, of course, we won’t. He should be the one to ask us and you for a pardon.”

But is Putin does decide to pardon the ladies he would perhaps gain a great deal of support from a number of factions among his fellow country men. And if not a full pardon a light sentence may give him the same results. If he does either it will be just a slap on the wrist for the “Pussy Riot” girls who aren’t likely to repeat the crime.

Pussy Riot has caused quite a stir all over the planet, I wouldn’t be wise and Putin intervene to grant them all clemency.

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