Court Denies Pussy Riot Member’s Appeal

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A Russian court in the town of Berezniky (Perm region) has turned down Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina’s request to be released to take care of her five-year-old son. She had asked to complete serving her two-year sentence after he had turned 14. She is imprisoned in a Berezniky facility.

The court that sentenced Alekhina had already taken the presence of an underage child into account, the Perm region judge said.

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Maria Alekhina

Last August a Moscow court convicted Alekhina and two other women, all members of the performance group Pussy Riot, of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for their brief unauthorized church performance protesting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. Judge Marina Syrova sentenced each to two years in prison. They could have received up to seven years.

In October, Yekaterina Samutsevich’s sentence was suspended after a new lawyer for the defense said she should not have been tried with the other band members, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Alekhina, because she had not actually protested inside Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Her lawyer told the court that Samutsevich had not performed the ‘punk protest’ near the cathedral’s altar in February because she had been stopped and led away before it took place.

Tolokonnikova, who also has an underage child, is serving her jail sentence in Mordovia prison camp. It isn’t clear whether or not she has attempted to have her sentence suspended, too.

The protest was a response to Kirill I of Moscow, a Russian Orthodox bishop. Since 2009, he’s been Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus’ and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church. He supports Putin. In fact, at a Feb. 8, 2012 meeting of religious leaders, he called the Putin era “a miracle of God.” He followed that by chiding democratic-reform demonstrators who produce “ear-piercing shrieks.”

Pussy Riot evidently disagreed with the patriarch. Three of the punk group headed to Kirill’s place, Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. They reportedly crossed themselves, bowed to the altar, and began singing, asking the Virgin Mary “to drive Putin away.” The song also includes a line saying Kirill believes in Putin rather than God. But they may not have gotten that far. It took less than a minute for guards to show them the cathedral doors. Police eventually arrested them in March, then they were tried, convicted and sentenced five months later.