'This Verdict Is Lawless,' Says Pussy Riot Lawyer

Russian punk feminists sentenced to two years apiece for 'hooliganism'

Pussy Riot
Misha Japaridze, file/ AP
Pussy Riot
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A Moscow judge sentenced feminist punk rockers Pussy Riot today to two years in prison each for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

The jail sentences for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who were arrested on March 4th, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, arrested on March 15th, start from the day of their arrests.

The court concluded that the band members "expressed hatred and hostility" toward Russian Orthodox believers when, dressed in brightly colored dresses and balaclavas, they performed a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21st asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

The court supported the prosecution's claim that all three women suffered from "mixed personality disorder," but were sane and able to serve their sentences.

Someone in the courtroom yelled "Shame!" after the judge read the sentences. Defense lawyers said they will appeal the verdict in the Russian courts and the European Court of Human Rights.

"This verdict is lawless," said Tolokonnikova's lawyer, Mark Feygin.

The verdict and sentencing was influenced by Putin, Feygin alleged, and the trial included falsifying facts of the case and statements of defense witnesses.

Over a hundred Pussy Riot supporters gathered outside the court Friday, chanting anti-Putin slogans. Several protesters were arrested, including prominent opposition leaders Sergei Udaltsov and Garry Kasparov.

The eight-day trial of Tolokonnikova, 22, Alyokhina, 24, and Samutsevich, 30, is widely believed to be a politically-motivated show trial carried out as a warning to political dissidents. International musicians, including Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, Paul McCartney and dozens more, have voiced support for Pussy Riot.