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Pussy Riot girls sentenced to two years in general penitentiary

August 17, 2012, 17:57 UTC+3

They are guilty of hooliganism at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow

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MOSCOW, August 17 (Itar-Tass) — The Moscow Khamovniki District Court has found guilty Pussy Riot punk band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich in the case of the punk prayer at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

They were sentenced to two years in a general penitentiary for the act of religiously motivated hooliganism, Presiding Judge Marina Syrova said.

The court said the Pussy Riot singers could be reformed only in a correctional institution.

The judge referred to the psychological examination, which confirmed mixed personality disorders, oppositional behavior and emotional instability of the women. She said though they did not need mandatory therapy. The women were fully aware of what they were doing, she said.

The court took into account as an alleviating circumstance the underage children of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina and the absence of their previous criminal record. The court found no aggravating circumstances but the judge decided there could be no suspended sentence.

Prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov demanded three years in a general penitentiary for the defendants. In his words, “the punk prayer” at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow was not political, as claimed by the girls, but aimed to insult Orthodox believers. He said the action was provoking and aimed to incite religious hatred. The prosecutor asked the judge to bear in mind the social danger of the girls’ act and noted that their correction was possible only in prison.

The defense said it would appeal any sentence but an acquittal.

“Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich committed an act of hooliganism – a flagrant breach of public peace and disrespect for the society motivated by hatred for a religion or a social group done by conspiracy in the form of provocative and insulting actions in a religious building attracting attention of a large number of believers,” the judge said.

The court said the performance had no political motives.

“The conduct of Pussy Riot band members and its video recording were rooted in religious hatred,” Syrova said. The same was confirmed by computer files, clothes and slogans of the defendants.

“Such actions undermine the state fundamentals and incite to religious feud, which is proven with evidence,” she said. “The punk prayer was held in a public place by a group of conspiring people. Religious hatred was also manifested during court hearings,” the judge said.

“The defendants flagrantly breached public peace, disrupted the normal functioning of the cathedral, showed open disrespect for the cathedral staff and visitors and insulted and humiliated Orthodox believers,” Syrova said.

The sentence said that the action was amoral; the defendants encroached upon the identity of a large number of believers, opposed themselves to the society and disregarded norms of behavior in a church.

In the course of the trial the defendants rejected claims they staged the act because of hatred for Orthodox believers. They insisted their performance was purely political, not religious.

The trial lasted for slightly less than a month, and it took the court seven days to hear the case merits. Presiding Judge Marina Syrova was assigned protection by request of Moscow City Court Chairperson Olga Yegorova due to the constant threats she had been receiving.

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