NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A Moscow judge sentenced three members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot to two years in prison each on hooliganism charges on Friday following a trial that has drawn international outrage as an emblem of Russia’s intolerance of dissent.
The trial sparked a wave of protests around the world, including New York City, in support of the feminist rockers, who have been dubbed prisoners of conscience by international rights group.
1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reports
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s main cathedral, high-kicking and dancing while singing a “punk prayer” pleading the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a third new term as Russia’s president two weeks later.
Judge Marina Syrova said in her verdict that the three band members “committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred” and offended religious believers. She rejected the women’s arguments that they were protesting the Orthodox Church’s support for Putin and didn’t want to hurt the feelings of believers.
The charges carried the maximum penalty of seven years in prison, although prosecutors had asked for a three-year sentence.
About 40 protesters stood outside the Russian consulate on East 91st Street in Manhattan on Friday morning wearing masks and holding banners that read: “We are all hooligans.”
“We believe in what they do and we want to call for a worldwide movement of people to stand out in the streets, play music and fight obvious injustice,” protester Daphne Carr said.
“It’s a sham of justice,” another protester said of the verdict and sentence.
Police repeatedly warned the crowd to get off the sidewalk and to take off their masks.
WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell reports
At least six people were arrested. Among them was Rebekah Schiller, who was wearing a mask.
“The mask is a form of free speech,” Schiller said, adding that she was seeking to emulate the members of Pussy Riot, the punk music group that briefly took over Moscow’s main cathedral in a prayer for deliverance from Putin. “I can show solidarity with that band.”
Three are facing charges of loitering and wearing masks; the others face charges of blocking traffic on Fifth Avenue, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.
In New York City, it is illegal for more than three people to wear masks without a permit.
The group marched to Times Square where they held a rally in support of the singers, saying artists have the right and the need to express themselves.
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