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Ex-Polish PM asks for Pussy Riot pardon

Warsaw - Poland's former leader Lech Walesa has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to pardon jailed members of the opposition punk rock band Pussy Riot in a letter published on Friday.

“I'm asking you to apply the right of pardon towards these activists,” the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize laureate wrote in a letter published on the website of his foundation www.ilw.org.pl.

(File photo) Feminist Russian punk group Pussy Riot members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, centre, Maria Alekhina, right, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, are escorted to a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia. Credit: AP

“I'm also asking you to consider legislative changes to abandon prison sentences for verbal offences,” the Polish ex-president and former chairman of the Solidarity union said.

A fervent Catholic, Walesa at the same time slammed the women's punk group for abusing a church for political purposes, and he distanced himself from “the forms of expression used by the members of the group.”

But he insisted that it was impossible to “subject to maltreatment and isolation people who fight with words and who promote their views publicly, even though they do so in such an iconoclastic manner.”

Three young Pussy Riot members were handed two-year jail sentences for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after performing a “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral in February, in which they asked the Virgin Mary to remove Putin.

Two other women who performed in the church but were never identified and did not stand trial have fled Russia to evade capture, the group has said.

The verdict sparked international concern and protests, with Western authorities branding the punishment disproportionate. - Sapa-AFP

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