Danny DeVito Urges Putin to Free Punk Protest Girls Facing Jail

Aug. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Hollywood actor Danny DeVito urged Vladimir Putin to free three members of an all-female punk group facing as long as seven years in jail for a protest act against the Russian president in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral.

“Mr Putin...Pussy Riot...set e’m free,” DeVito said on his Twitter Inc. account today, posting a link to the band’s cathedral performance.

Amnesty International has declared Maria Alekhina, 24, Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, prisoners of conscience, while music stars including Madonna, Peter Gabriel and Sting have rallied to their defense.

The Pussy Riot band members are on trial for hooliganism and inciting religious hatred after they performed what they called a “punk prayer” in front of the altar at the country’s main Russian Orthodox place of worship in February, calling for the removal of Putin, 59, who extended his 12-year rule in a presidential election in March.

A group of U.K. musicians including Jarvis Cocker, the lead singer of Pulp, the Who’s Pete Townshend and the Pet Shop Boys’ frontman Neil Tennant signed an open letter in support of the women, published in U.K. newspaper the Times yesterday.

Putin, who was in London yesterday to see Russian athletes performing in the Olympics and to meet U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, told reporters that while he didn’t see “anything good” in the behavior of the members of the punk group, they shouldn’t be judged “too severely.”

The defendants rejected criminal charges of hooliganism at the start of their trial on July 30. They argued that their case should be treated as an administrative violation, while apologizing for upsetting religious feelings.

Putin has responded to the largest demonstrations since he came to power in 2000 by tightening controls over the Internet and non-governmental institutions and prosecuting opposition activists and leaders.

To contact the reporter on this story: Henry Meyer in Moscow at hmeyer4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net