MOSCOW, Oct. 10 (UPI) -- A court in Moscow suspended the two-year prison sentence for one Pussy Riot punk rock band member but upheld the sentences for two other band members Wednesday.
The suspension of Ekaterina Samutsevich's sentence means she is free while convicted band mates Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina will be sent to a penal colony to serve their two-year sentences for performing their controversial "punk prayer" in February at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, RIA Novosti reported.
"We are glad that Ekaterina Samutsevich has been freed, but we fail to see how her role significantly differed from those of the others," defense lawyer Mark Feygin said after the new sentence was given.
Suzanne Nossel, U.S. executive director for Amnesty International, said in a statement the rights organization was pleased by Samutsevich's release but disappointed that the sentences of Alekhina and Tolokonnikova were upheld.
"While Amnesty International welcomes Ekaterina's release, we still find today's decision extremely disappointing for Maria and Nadezhda," Nossel said. "This is another blow to Russia's self-described democracy and respect for the rule of law. These women are artists who were exercising their human right to peacefully protest. They have been sentenced for the crime of performing a song."
"We call for Maria and Nadezhda's unconditional release so that they may return to their art without fear of reprisal," she said.
The hearing was delayed from Oct. 1 when Samutsevich fired her original lawyer. Samutsevich's new lawyer maintained her client didn't actually participate in the protest since security guards blocked her from entering the church.
During the hearing, Alyokhina said, "We are in prison for our political beliefs."
Samutsevich claimed she "had no intention of offending religious believers," saying the group's performance in which they called for the Virgin Mary to "drive [President Vladimir] Putin out" was "a purely political act," RIA Novosti said.
Feygin also accused Putin of "illegally influencing the court" when he commented last weekend he thought the women received the proper punishment.
The three band members were sentenced to prison Aug. 17 for their performance inside Moscow's main Orthodox church. The case grabbed international headlines and sparked criticism of Russian leaders for what critics said was a harsh punishment for a relatively light offense.
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