MOSCOW (AP) — Russian prosecutors on Tuesday asked for a three-year sentence for each member of a feminist punk band who performed a stunt against Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.
The hooliganism charges the three women are facing carry a sentence of up to 7 years in prison. Prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov said in a web-cast court hearing that a 3-year term would take into account the fact that two of the defendants are young mothers.
The three women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 — have been in custody for five months following the February stunt, in which they took over a church pulpit in Christ the Savior cathedral for less than a minute, singing, high-kicking and dancing.
The defendants have said their goal was to express their resentment over Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin's rule.
"They set themselves off against the Orthodox world and sought to devalue traditions and dogmas that have been formed for the centuries," the prosecutor said Tuesday.
Members of the band say they did not mean to hurt anyone's religious feelings when they performed the "punk prayer."
Their case is part of a widening government crackdown on dissent that followed Putin's election in March and caused strong protests in Russia and abroad.
Larisa Pavlova, a lawyer for the church employees who were described as the injured party in the case, told the court on Tuesday that she supports the 3-year-sentence for the band.
Pavlova said most hooliganism in Russia is committed when people are drunk and they often regret what they have done — but the defendants "thoroughly planned, rehearsed (their performance) and were fully aware of what they were doing."
"And they had the audacity to say in court that they did the right thing, that it's OK and that they're ready to keep on doing such things," Pavlova said.
Tolokonnikova chuckled as Pavlova mentioned in her speech that feminism in Russia is incompatible with Orthodox faith.
The trial has sharply divided Russia. Some believers felt insulted by the act, while rights groups have declared the women prisoners of conscience.
Orthodox leaders have ignored calls by many Orthodox believers to pardon the women and urge the court to dismiss the case.
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