Moscow court frees one of three Pussy Riot members

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MOSCOW — A Moscow appeals court today unexpectedly freed one jailed member of punk band Pussy Riot, but upheld the two-year prison sentences for the two other women jailed for an irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin.

All three women were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.The Moscow City Court ruled that Yekaterina Samutsevich’s sentence should be suspended because she was thrown out of the cathedral by guards before she could remove her guitar from its case and take part in the performance.

“The punishment for an incomplete crime is much lighter than for a completed one,” said Samutsevich’s lawyer, Irina Khrunova. “She did not participate in the actions the court found constituted hooliganism.”

Dressed in neon-colored miniskirts and tights, with homemade balaclavas on their heads, the women performed a “punk prayer” asking Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin as he headed into a March election that would hand him a third term.

“If we unintentionally offended any believers with our actions, we express our apologies,” said Samutsevich, who along with Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova spoke in court today from inside a glass cage known colloquially as the “aquarium.”

“The idea of the protest was political, not religious,” she said. “In this and in previous protests we acted against the current government of the president, and against the Russian Orthodox Church as an institution of the Russian government, against the political comments of the Russian patriarch. Exactly because of this I don’t consider that I committed a crime.”

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