NEWS
17/08/2012 08:26 BST | Updated 17/08/2012 08:59 BST

Pussy Riot Guilty: Punk Band Convicted Of Hooliganism Motivated By Religious Hatred

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Pussy Riot have been found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

The band of three Russian women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, were convicted on Friday after staging a protest against Vladimir Putin in Moscow's cathedral.

According to the Interfax news agency, the court concluded: "The Pussy Riot singers colluded under unestablished circumstances, for the purpose of offensively violating public peace in a sign of flagrant disrespect for citizens.

"The women were motivated by religious enmity and hatred, and acted provocatively and in an insulting manner inside a religious building in the presence of a large number of believers."

The band members, along with two other women, have attracted international support from musicians including Madonna and Paul McCartney as well as political leaders, amid concerns about freedom of expression in Russia.

They have been in prison since March and face three years in jail after their protest at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, where they called on the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Putin.

State prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov called the trio "abusers of God".

Speaking before the verdict, Samutsevich said irrespective of the outcome the trial had highlighted what she saw as the oppressive nature of the Putin administration.

"The system cannot conceal the repressive nature of this trial," she said. "Once again, the world sees Russia differently than the way Putin tries to present it at his daily international meetings.

"Clearly, none of the steps Putin promised to take toward instituting the rule of law has been taken."

Speaking following the verdict, British Labour MP and former Europe minister Chris Bryant said it showed the "corrupt" Putin government to be a "regressive, oppressive kleptocracy".

Singer Kate Nash, who has campaigned for Pussy Riot, told the BBC: "I feel really sad, but I think people expected the verdict to be guilty.

"I think it's important for artist to be opinionated and it just seems messed up to me that you to that and then you are shut down.

"I am an opinionated person and I want to challenge the world I live in and challenge the governemt if I don't agree with them.

"It's just terrible, the way they've been treated throughout the trial. It's disgusting and it says a lot of sad things about this world we live in.

She added: "It's really messed up and really twisted."

British Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, who attended the Pussy Riot trial, told The Huffington Post UK: "The defence lawyers say that it is not the judge who will decide, it is Putin himself. The world is watching while he makes up his mind."

On Thursday, the former president of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev told the BBC the case was "a completely pointless undertaking" that should not be taking place.

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