January 16, 2013 / 2:58 PM / 5 years ago

Russian court rejects Pussy Riot protester's bid for release

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Maria Alyokhina, a member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", smiles inside the defendants' box during a court hearing in Berezniki in Perm region, near the Ural mountains, January 16, 2013.Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Jailed Pussy Riot punk band member Maria Alyokhina lost an appeal to a Russian court on Wednesday to be freed from prison and defer her sentence to care for her five-year-old son.

Alyokhina, 24, is serving a two-year sentence for a protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

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She had asked the court to free her from the jail in the Ural Mountains to serve her sentence when her son was older.

"The court has ruled against granting the request," state-run RIA news agency the judge as saying. It said the court found that Alyokhina's family situation had been properly taken into account during her trial, which ended in August.

Alyokhina and two band mates were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for their "punk prayer", which was criticized by Putin and cast by the Russian Orthodox Church as part of a concerted attack on the country's main faith.

The refusal to let Alyokhina be with her child is likely to stoke further ire from liberals incensed by a law he signed in December barring Americans from adopting Russian children, which critics say has made vulnerable orphans pawns to politics.

The United States and Europe have called the two-year Pussy Riot sentences excessive and Putin's opponents say they are part of a series of measures to punish dissent since he returned to the presidency last may after four years as prime minister.

Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Alison Williams

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