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Members of Russian Punk Band Pussy Riot Receive Two-Year Prison Sentence for ‘Hooliganism’

Pussy Riot Demonstrators
Dan Kitwood, Getty Images

Having spent the last five months detained in Russia, the verdict for three members of the feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot was delivered today (Aug. 17). The women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24 and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, have been sentenced to two years in Russian prison for their alleged crime of “hooliganism.”

While the charge might sound like one your grandmother would levy against you in the U.S., Russia is not so lenient. The women were arrested after entering Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral donning ski masks, tights and skirts and staging an “unauthorized” protest against President Vladimir Putin.

CBS News reports that while the woman sat inside a glass cage in the courtroom waiting for their fate, hundreds of brave supporters gathered outside chanting “Russia without Putin!” Unfortunately, the judge didn’t appeal to their cries of support, handing down a seemingly severe two year sentence. “Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich and Alyokhina committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society,” said the judge, as reported by Reuters. “The girls’ actions were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church’s rules.”

Tolokonnikova had different ideas, saying to a translator before the verdict was delivered, “We accept our ethical misdemeanor, but an ethical misdemeanor should not be a cause of criminal punishment.”

In addition to their local supporters, Pussy Riot is starting a movement of their own around the globe with musicians like Paul McCartney, Madonna and Red Hot Chili Peppers speaking out about artistic freedom and freedom of speech. When Red Hot Chili Peppers played in Moscow earlier this year, frontman Anthony Kiedis wore a Pussy Riot t-shirt and according to the Guardian, he and bassist Flea sent letters to the imprisoned women through their husbands with messages of support. “Nadya and Katya and Masha, we love you, we love to support you and are here to help you,” Kiedis’ letter reportedly said. Flea commended their bravery and prayed for their release.

In addition to celebrity muscle backing them, supporters around the globe from New York City to London, to Paris and Sydney, gathered to rally for Pussy Riot.

The other members of Pussy Riot have pledged to continue their efforts and challenged the women in Russia to gather with them for the cause, demanding the release of their imprisoned bandmates.

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