Russian judge sentences punk rock band trio to two years in jail
MOSCOW (Reuters) - A judge sentenced three women who staged an anti-Kremlin protest on the altar of Moscow's main Russian Orthodox church to two years in jail on Friday in a trial seen as test of President Vladimir Putin's tolerance of dissent.
The trio from punk bad Pussy Riot, handcuffed in a courtroom cage, reacted with giggles and one rolled her eyes when the judge issued the sentences after reading the guilty verdict for almost three hours.
A man in the courtroom shouted "Shame!" and hundreds of protesters outside the Moscow courthouse repeated that chant and whistled when news of the sentence came.
"They are in jail because it is Putin's personal revenge," opposition leader Alexei Navalny said in the courtroom. "This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin".
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral. They called on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.
The defendants said they were protesting against close ties between Putin and the Russian Orthodox church and did not intend to offend believers, but the judge rejected those arguments.
Prosecutors had requested three-year sentences. The two-year sentences include the nearly six months served since the defendants were jailed following the February 21 protest.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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