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Ed Koch Applauds Russian Justice System In ‘Pussy Riot’ Case

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (file / credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch (file / credit: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - There has been nearly unanimous outrage from around the county and around the world over the two-year jail sentence handed down for the members of the Russian punk band “Pussy Riot” for what is called “hooliganism” in that country.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, however, has written a commentary defending the punishment.

“I don’t think it’s awful. If people desecrate a church instead of going outside and saying whatever they want to. They went physically into the church, dancing around the altar, making prayers that were salacious. In my judgment, that requires punishment,” Koch told WCBS 880 reporter Alex Silverman.

LISTEN: Koch With Silverman

“You compare it to a demonstration by AIDS activists at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,” said Silverman.

“Well, I was mayor then. Dozens of ACT UP supporters came in, disrupted the service, threw the Communion wafer, and they were arrested. And so far as I know, no court has sanctioned them at all. Is this what you call free speech?” said Koch.

“Isn’t there a difference though when you consider those folks were protesting the church, whereas the band was protesting the government. Doesn’t that just smack of everything we revile about how governments can behave?” asked Silverman.

“Shall I desecrate the church in doing that or can’t they stand outside and denounce the [President Vladimir] Putin regime. I have no problem with their denouncing Putin. I also say you can argue whether or not the verdict was excessive, whether they should have been given fines, but within the Russian justice system,” Koch said. “I applaud the Russian justice system that says finally ‘Churches have rights.’”

“So, to you, it’s not a free speech issue and people who are painting it that way are kind of looking at the wrong thing?” asked Silverman.

“Well, let me ask those very same people if three men or women with a political issue went into a black church and engaged in the profane actions, would they say ‘Oh that’s free speech.’ or would they run and say ‘How dare you do that!’” answered Koch.

What do you think of the verdict and sentence? Sound off in the comments section below.