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Pussy Riot members ordered held 6 months

July 20, 2012 at 1:28 PM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, July 20 (UPI) -- A Moscow court Friday ordered three members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot to remain jailed until January.

The three band members face hooliganism charges for performing an anti-Vladimir Putin song in February at Christ the Savior Cathedral, Moscow's largest cathedral, RIA Novosti reported. Putin was president-elect at the time.

The three women -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 -- have been in pretrial custody since March and could face up to seven years in jail if convicted.

Defense attorney Nikolai Polozov told RIA Novosti the court's decision would be appealed.

The three women were detained after four members of Pussy Riot wearing masks performed what they called a "punk prayer" in the cathedral in late February to protest what they called church support for Putin's presidential election campaign.

The song, titled "Holy S---" included the lyrics "Virgin Mary, drive Putin out!"

Prosecutors said the group "insulted in a sacrilegious manner the centuries-old foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church" and performed a "blasphemous" song in the cathedral.

Figures in Russia's arts community, including some Putin supporters, signed a letter last month calling for the suspects to be released, and the Kremlin's rights council backed the letter. Amnesty International named the suspects prisoners of conscience in April.

The group's defense team has accused the courts of fulfilling a "political order" and asked Friday that Putin and Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, be summoned as witnesses.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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