[JURIST] A Moscow City Court [official website, Russian] on Wednesday denied an appeal by Russian feminist rock group Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive], continuing a ban on the group's videos from the Internet. The court deemed [Reuters report] the band's videos questioning the role of religion in Russian government "extremist." Critics claim that the ban is violating the group's free speech rights. However, President Vladimir Putin argues that the ban is protecting the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox population. Band member Yekaterina Samutsevich was denied access to the appeal proceedings [RAPSI report] because the court did not recognize her as an interested party.
Earlier this month a Russian court denied [JURIST report] a sentencing deferral for band member Maria Alekhina, despite her having a young child. In October, Alekhina and fellow band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were transferred to separate regional prisons [JURIST report] generally reserved for dangerous criminals to serve their two-year sentences. Earlier in October Samutsevich was freed on appeal [JURIST report] because she did not actually participate in the protest song, and she vowed to take the band's case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on charges that the Russian government had illegally detained them and also violated the rock group's right to free speech. All three members were given two-year prison sentences after they were convicted [JURIST report] in August of hooliganism in connection with "guerrilla performance" of a protest song in February at the altar of downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.