In Russia today, three members of the feminist Pussy Riot punk-rock band were convicted on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and each were given a 2 year prison sentence. The charges carried a maximum sentence of 7 years, and the prosecution had asked for 3 years. The three had been arrested after they entered a nearly empty Christ the Savior Cathedral and performed an obscene "punk prayer" in protest of the Russian Orthodox Church's political support for Vladimir Putin. (See prior posting.) The trial has been widely followed around the world as a test of democracy and free expression in Russia. Describing today's Moscow court proceedings, the Washington Post said:
The judge’s recitation Friday dwelled on what sounded like an offense to the church rather than the state. She quoted at length witnesses who said they were believers deeply offended by the one-minute performance.
One witness said that the young women violated the Cathedral of Christ the Savior dress code with their short dresses and that women were expected to behave modestly in church. Another said public prayers were not permitted in the cathedral without the presence of a priest. If that wasn’t bad enough, one witness said, the performance occurred just before Lent.UPDATE: Interfax reported (8/17) that the Russian Orthodox Church has asked the Russian authorities "to show mercy within the law towards the convicted" Pussy Riot band members. Meanwhile The Examiner (9/18) reprints an English translation of a recent Open Letter (full text in Russian) in which nearly 200 Russian lawyers and jurists argue that the band members should have been charged at most merely with the minor offense under Art. 5.26 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses of Insulting Religious Feelings of Citizens.