Russian prosecutor seeks jail for Pussy Riot protest

 

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A state prosecutor today demanded a three-year jail term for three women from the punk band Pussy Riot, saying they had abused God when they stormed the altar of a Moscow cathedral and sang a "protest prayer" against the Russian Orthodox Church's close links to Vladimir Putin.

The case, in which the three are charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, has outraged many Russian Orthodox believers.

But it has also caused an international outcry and focused attention on a crackdown on dissent since Putin returned to the presidency for a six-year term on May 7.

"The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity," federal prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said in closing arguments, watched by the women's lawyers, friends and family in the tiny courtroom.

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

The defendants looked pale and tired as they sat silently in a glass and metal courtroom cage, two of them scribbling notes.

Their lawyer said the demand for a prison sentence was disproportionate and shameful.

Nikiforov did not press the court for the maximum seven-year sentence. Putin said last week that Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had done "nothing good" but should not be judged too harshly.

But the prosecutor ignored pleas by the opposition and human rights groups not to seek jail terms over the profanity-laced protest, in which the trio, wearing balaclavas and short dresses, burst into the Christ the Saviour Cathedral and belted out a song urging the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

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

He dismissed the defendants' argument that the protest was not intended to offend believers and was aimed at highlighting the church's support for Putin.

"The insult is not to Putin but to the social group of Orthodox Christian believers," he said.

Reuters

Comments