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Posted at 01:07 PM ET, 08/17/2012

Russian punk band members sentenced to two years in jail

This post has been updated

A Russian judge has found three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism and sentenced them to two years in jail.

“The judge on Friday said the three band members committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred and offending religious believers,” the Associated Press reported.

Read our correspondents’ report from Moscow

Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested in February after they gave a concert to protest Russian President Vladi­mir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.

Russian Judge Marina Syrova defined the hooliganism charge as:

“An act of hooliganism can be understood as being driven by acts of hatred or degradation of any given social or national or religious group.
“Therefore the charge of hooliganism can be sustained when a defendant has expressed open disrespect and defiance against the communally expected norms and the tastes of others,” according to the Guardian.

Outside the courtroom, police have been tussling with protesters, and some journalists have reported on Twitter that several vanloads of demonstrators have been arrested.

Meanwhile, anti-Pussy Riot demonstrators focused on the religious overtones of the band’s protest, with one Orthodox believer in the courtroom saying the stunt “hurt his soul.”

In an attempt to escape from Moscow police, one protester allegedly climbed into the Turkish Embassy.

At his daily briefing, White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the administration is “disappointed by the verdict. While we understand the group’s behavior was offensive for some,  we have concerns about the way these young women were treated by the Russian judicial system.”

At the Russian Embassy in Northwest Washington early Friday, members of Amnesty International showed their support for the three women.

“Freedom of expression resonates very deeply with a lot of people, including myself,” said 30-year-old Jiva Manake.

“They didn’t do anything,” said Tanja Nyberg, 41.

Nyberg was among the earliest to arrive and was holding a sign that read: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7.” She said people in Moscow held the same sign two days ago and were attacked for it.
Frank Gomez, right, and fellow protesters, many of them Amnesty International members, join activists from around the world to show their support for three members of Pussy Riot during the Global Day of Solidarity for Pussy Riot outside the Russian Embassy. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

J.J. Krehbiel, 22, said he was there “to support freedom of speech and expression for people everywhere.”

“We’re very disappointed by the verdict. We were expecting it but it’s still wrong,” said Michelle Ringuette, chief of campaigns and programs for Amnesty International USA.

In Ukraine, hundreds of activists flocked to the Russian Embassy in Kiev, singing songs and sporting the band’s signature balaclava look:

Protests in support of the band are also taking place at Russian embassies in London, Paris, Berlin and Brussels, AFP reports.

“Many of the demonstrators have opted for bright balaclavas but at least one, in Berlin, has a particularly lifelike Vladimir Putin mask.”

Here’s the scene in Berlin:

Click here to see more photos of the band’s saga:

By and Malu Banuelos  |  01:07 PM ET, 08/17/2012

Tags:  World

 
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