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US urges review of Pussy Riot sentences

Washington -

The United States on Friday urged Russia to reconsider two-year jail terms handed to the punk rock protest band Pussy Riot, voicing concern over the “disproportionate” sentences.

Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow. Credit: AP

“The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld,” she said in a statement.

The three-woman band infuriated the Kremlin by performing a “punk prayer” on February 21 near the altar of Moscow's biggest cathedral in which they belted out a chorus calling on the Virgin Mary to drive out President Vladimir Putin.

Band members Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty Friday of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and each given two years in prison.

The verdict was delivered in the same week that Putin marks the first 100 days of a third Kremlin term he has already used to slap new restrictions on protests and political organizations with foreign sources of income. - Sapa-AFP

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