Moscow - Russia's human rights ombudsman said on Thursday that he saw the sentences handed to Pussy Riot members as excessive and he could lodge a complaint if their appeal to a higher court is unsuccessful.

“I consider the sentence excessive,” Vladimir Lukin said at a news conference, the Interfax news agency reported.

Three members of Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison this month after being convicted of hooliganism with a motive of religious hatred for singing a protest song against President Vladimir Putin in an Orthodox church.

Lukin, a parliament-appointed ombudsman and founder member of the Yabloko liberal party, said he saw the “punk prayer” performance as a minor misdemeanour that “in a normal civilised society is decided as a non-criminal case.”

The women's lawyers are appealing against the sentence and Lukin said he hoped that the appeal court would find in their favour, adding that he would have the powers to issue a complaint if not.

“I am counting on the next judicial level of review examining the case more seriously. If the sentence remains the same, I will have the right to lodge a complaint which I will consider carefully,” he said. - Sapa-AFP