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Russia punk feminists receive 2-year prison sentence on hooliganism conviction

The controversial trial [RAPSI materials] of three members of the Russian feminist activist group Pussy Riot ended Friday with the announcement [hearing transcript] of a guilty verdict and two-year prison sentence for each of the three women. The Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow found Pussy Riot members Natalia Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich guilty of "hooliganism" characterized by the court as driven by religious hatred. The three women were tried for their "guerilla performance" of a protest song in February at the altar of downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, a space maintained to be sacred to the Russian Orthodox Church. Defense counsel for the women lambasted the prosecution and reiterated their intent to appeal [RAPSI report] to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] both the verdict and alleged rights violations that have occurred throughout the trial. The lawyers have alleged that they have not been allowed to speak with their clients in private and that because each day of trial lasted over 10 hours their clients were deprived of adequate sleep. They also stated that their clients did not received hot food once the trial began, prompting an ambulance to be called during the third day of the trial after the women reported feeling ill. Prosecutors had requested a three-year sentence [JURIST report] for each of the band members.

The trial of the three activists has created controversy and has been criticized as politically motivated move by Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] to discredit his opposition. This month lawyers for the women requested that the judge recuse herself [JURIST report] because her decisions were politically motivated. Judge Marina Syrova declined to hear the defense motion for her recusal and moved forward with the trial. The defense had also moved for the judge's recusal [RAPSI report] last month but that motion was also denied. The women were arrested in March and the trial began at the end of July [JURIST report].

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