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Human Rights Council Members Question Pussy Riot Sentence

RIA Novosti

17:16 24/08/2012 MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - Members of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council said in a statement they question the lawfulness of the sentence handed down to three members of the female punk group Pussy Riot.

“Moral condemnation of this scandalous act that violates the rules of behavior in religious institutions...leaves questions about the lawfulness of the sentence, about whether the punishment was fair and humane,” members of the council said in a statement, published on the council’s Web site.

“Society is far from being indifferent when criminal laws are applied to activities that entail only administrative punishment,” the statement reads.

The letter was signed by 20 incumbent and former council members, including leading human right activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva.

Three members of the all-female punk band Pussy Riot were jailed for two years for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, at a trial that sparked international condemnation.

Along with other members of their band, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, performed a "punk prayer" near the altar of Christ the Savior Cathedral in February urging the Virgin Mary to "drive out" Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Lawyers for Pussy Riot said the performance was not anti-religion and was in protest against the Orthodox Church's support for Putin ahead of the March 4 presidential elections that returned him to the Kremlin.

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