A Moscow judge found three members of the Russian female punk rock band Pussy Riot guilty Friday of hooliganism, according to Russian state media.
Judge Marina Syrova said the three women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, a philosophy graduate, Maria Alyokhina, 24, a charity worker and environmental activist, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, a computer programming graduate, would not be acquitted, RIA Novosti news agency said.
They were charged over a riotous "performance" they held February 21 inside Christ Savior Cathedral, one of Moscow's grandest houses of worship.
Judge Syrova described how the women were dressed in “inappropriate clothes for a church” and how they shouted “blasphemous and sacrilegious words hurtful to believers.” The three had worn revealing neon clothing and covered their faces with balaclava style masks, before making use of a microphone and guitar and starting to to flail their arms and legs, shouting and screaming punk-rock style.
They were accused of offending those present, through their actions and their clothing, and showing a lack of respect for the rules of the Orthodox Church. The band members call themselves supporters of "politicized feminism", specifying their political views as "left antiauthoritarianism." The performance was supposed to protest the ties between Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Orthodox Church.
The band members repeatedly crossed themselves and performed a song that includes the line "Mother Mary please drive Putin away" inside the cathedral. However, the judge said that they did not shout the words in the cathedral itself. Rather, the shout was added in editing to the video they made of the riot.
Pop star Madonna performed in Moscow earlier this month and expressed support for the group. "Everyone has the right to free speech, everywhere in the world. Maria, Katya, Nadia, I pray for you," Madonna said at her concert. "They did something brave with their action. And I am praying for their freedom."
Putin criticized the women's action earlier this month, but said they should not be judged "too harshly." He added that he hoped the court makes "the right decision."