One performance could land members of this Russian punk band in prison for seven years: three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who engaged in a protest against Russian president Vladimir Putin, are going on trial today. Back in February, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaternia Samutsevich sang a song in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Afterwards, they were arrested, imprisoned, and refused bail - and they may get seven years in jail.
The women have been charged with "hooliganism" for the incident, in which they performed a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral, while dressed in brightly coloured miniskirts and balaclavas, to protest Vladimir Putin's return as president. The "prayer" was a song with the lyrics "Virgin Mary, drive Putin away!" In statements read by their lawyer, they said their goal was to express their resentment over close ties between Kirill, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, and Putin.
Here's a video of the incident that got the women arrested:
Amnesty International has declared the three women Prisoners of Conscience. Their imprisonment is exceptional: according to the Guardian, it's rare for defendants to be imprisoned pre-trial in Russia, especially those with young children who are accused of non-violent crimes. Two of the Pussy Riot accused have young children. Nadia Tolokonnikova's daughter Gera is just four years old. More than 200 well-known public figures have signed an open letter condemning the trial, including many Putin supporters, and 41,000 Russians have added their signatures so far.
The Russian Orthodox Church has responded by calling the rockers' act "blasphemous" and denouncing believers who have urged the church to forgive them. Public opinion is divided in Russia, with leading liberal politicians strongly protesting the trial and criticizing the church for supporting the criminal case, while some Orthodox groups and believers are urging strong punishment.
Some prominent figures around the world have tweeted their support for the Pussy Riot members. Stephen Fry tweeted this earlier today:
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