Pussy Riot gets prison for Putin protest

Updated
Members of the all-girl punk band "Pussy Riot" Yekaterina Samutsevich (L), Maria Alyokhina (C) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R) sit in a glass-walled cage during a court hearing in Moscow on Agust 17, 2012.
Members of the all-girl punk band "Pussy Riot" Yekaterina Samutsevich (L), Maria Alyokhina (C) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (R) sit in a glass-walled cage during a court hearing in Moscow on Agust 17, 2012.
Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images

Three members of the Russian feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison today on charges of “hooliganism with intent to incite religious hatred.”

Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samutsevitch were arrested in March by Russian authorities after the women performed an anti-Putin mock prayer and demonstration on the steps of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. The Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties with Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, accused the women of blasphemy, and called for the women to serve prison time for their actions. 

In a blatant, though sadly not surprising, show of hypocrisy, Judge Marina Syrova told the courtroom as she read the verdict for the Pussy Riot members that the Russian government “guarantees the equality of rights and freedoms” for citizens. Syrova also accused the women of offending Orthodox believers, and said repeatedly that the women’s protest was motivated by religious hatred, a charge that the band has denied.

Protesters around the world reacted immediately after the verdict was read, declaring August 17 as Pussy Riot Global Day. Crowds in Russia outside of the courtroom clashed with police, and family members of the band publicly condemned the court’s decision. “We are going toward Iran and Saudi Arabia where one can be stoned no religious grounds,” Samoutsevitch’s father said. Tolokonnikova’s husband added, “It’s the end of the judicial system in Russia.”

The Pussy Riot trial has been a point of political contention over the last few months, further fueled by Putin’s re-election as president in March. In her closing statement to the court, Tolokonnikova addressed the country’s oppression:

We did our punk performances because what reigns supreme in the Russian state is a caste system, a closed system, a system set in stone. And the politics are led by narrow corporate interests. So much so that even the air in Russia causes pain to us….

I want to weep when I look at how the Russian Federation’s legal and judicial system is debased by the tactics of the inquisition. But from the moment of our arrest we have not been able to weep, we have forgotten how to cry. We shouted at our punk concerts the best we could, shouted out about the unlawfulness of the government, and look! They stole our voice. During the whole trial they have refused to listen to us, or to understand us.”

Meanwhile, Pussy Riot released a new song and video today, “Putin Lights Up The Fires,” that includes footage from the condemned church performance. 

Update, 1:40 p.m.: The White House administration responded to the verdict, saying they are “disappointed” with 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,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said.

Check below the jump for images from around the world as Pussy Riot supporters react today to the news.

Russian riot policemen detain a supporter of all-girl punk band "Pussy Riot" near a court building in Moscow on Agust 17, 2012.
Supporters of Russian band "Pussy Riot" participate in a demonstration of solidarity on August 17, 2012 in Hamburg, northern Germany.
New York Police Department officers arrest a woman demonstrating in solidarity with the Russian punk band Pussy Riot in front of the Russian Consulate in New York August 17, 2012.
Amnesty International protestors demonstrate against the verdict of the Russian court against punk band Pussy Riot, outside the Russian embassy in Oslo, Friday, Aug. 17, 2012.

Pussy Riot gets prison for Putin protest

Updated