MOSCOW, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A Moscow judge Friday sentenced three members of Russian feminist band Pussy Riot to two years in prison after finding them guilty of hooliganism.
In announcing her verdict, Judge Marina Syrova said Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, carefully planned a performance of a protest song in a church, RIA Novosti reported.
"The defendants were aware of the offensive nature of their actions," Syrova said. "They sought to publicize their act and provoke a public reaction; they wanted to insult not only church clergy but also the broad sections of society."
"They have deeply hurt and insulted the faithful," the judge said.
Three band members have been jailed for more than five months, which is the equivalent of 10 months in prison per Russian law, RIA Novosti said. Under the same terms, the band members could be released in 14 months.
The women maintained their "punk prayer" at Christ the Savior cathedral in February was a political act to protest the Russian Orthodox Church's support of President Vladimir Putin. The church's leader said the obscenity-filled performance was tantamount to blasphemy.
U.S. officials expressed concern about the matter.
"The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. "We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld."
Before the verdict, some statues in the city were covered with colored balaclavas, the band's trademark look, to show support for the women, the BBC reported.
Support for the band members spread across Russia and Ukraine, RIA Novosti reported.
Tolokonnikova said Thursday she wasn't bitter about being jailed, but declared in a Twitter post through her lawyer: "Politically, I am furious. Our imprisonment serves as a clear and unambiguous sign that freedom is being taken away from the entire country."
Her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, had told the BBC he didn't think the court would be impartial.
"No one in Russia, no one [elsewhere] has any doubt that it's Putin personally who will be choosing the sentence for the three members of Pussy Riot," Verzilov said.
|Additional World News Stories|
MESA, Ariz., June 19 (UPI) --A construction worker was killed early Wednesday when a bridge collapsed outside Phoenix, officials said.
LOS ANGELES, June 19 (UPI) --U.S. singer and actress Selena Gomez and British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran are now involved in a trans-Atlantic romance, Us Weekly reports.
ERBIL, Iraq, June 19 (UPI) --Iraq's Kurds have consolidated their growing energy sector with Chevron Corp. securing a third exploration block in the semiautonomous northern region that increasingly operates as a de facto independent state and France's Total buying a majority stake in another.