One Pussy Riot Member Freed on Appeal

Russian court upholds sentences for two others

pussy riot appeal
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages
Yekaterina Samutsevich sits in a car shortly after being freed in Moscow.
By |

One member of Pussy Riot was freed on appeal today in a Russian court, Reuters reports, while sentences for two others were upheld.

The court suspended the sentence of Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, whose lawyer said she didn't participate in the February "punk prayer" protest in against Russian President Vladimir Putin because she had been stopped and led away before it began. Sentences for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, were upheld. All three women had been convicted in August and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for the protest, which they staged in Moscow's main cathedral.

The women have repeatedly denied any anti-religion motivation. "We did not want to offend believers," Alyokhina told the court. "We came to the cathedral to speak out against the merger between spiritual figures and the political elite of our country."

Their convictions and sentences prompted an international outcry from observers who saw the proceedings as a show trial designed to suppress political dissent – a view echoed in court by members of the punk collective. "We are in jail for our political convictions," Alyokhina said. "Even if our sentences are upheld, we will not be silent. Even if we are in Mordovia or Siberia, we will not be silent, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you."

Putin said last weekend that their sentences were justified. "It is right that they were arrested and it was right that the court took this decision because you cannot undermine the fundamental morals and values to destroy the country."

The president's comments drew criticism from Mark Feigin, one of Pussy Riot's defense lawyers, who called on the court to censure Putin. "No official . . . is permitted to interfere with the court," Feigin said.

Pussy Riot has drawn the support of musicians including Yoko Ono, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Sinead O'Connor and more.