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Madonna Urges Freedom for Anti-Putin Punk Girls at Concert

Aug. 8 (Bloomberg) -- Madonna appealed for the freedom of three members of an all-female Russian punk band, on trial for a protest against Vladimir Putin in the country’s main Orthodox Christian cathedral.

“I think that these three girls -- Masha, Katya, Nadya --I think that they have done something courageous,” the pop star said in footage of her Moscow concert last night posted on the Ekho Moskvy radio station’s website. “They have paid a price for this act. I pray for their freedom.”

The U.S. government has condemned the prosecution of the Pussy Riot band members, who have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Music stars including Peter Gabriel and Sting have rallied to their defense. Pussy Riot performed what they called a “punk prayer” in February inside Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral, targeting Putin who extended his 12-year rule in presidential elections in March.

Prosecutors yesterday demanded a three-year prison sentence for Maria Alekhina, 24, Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, who are on trial for hooliganism and inciting religious hatred.

The three defendants, who were among five Pussy Riot band members who staged the performance in masks and skimpy dresses, face a maximum of seven years in prison under the Russian criminal code.

‘Wise Man’

Yoko Ono yesterday called for the young women’s release on her Twitter Inc. account. “Mr. Putin, you are a wise man & don’t need to fight with musicians and their friends. Keep space in prison for serious criminals,” John Lennon’s widow said.

A letter signed by 124 members of the German parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, was sent yesterday to the Russian ambassador to Germany expressing concern over the trial against the three members of Pussy Riot.

“Being held in detention for months and the threat of lengthy punishment are draconian and disproportionate,” the lawmakers said in the letter, a copy of which was received by Bloomberg News. “In a secular and pluralist state, peaceful artistic acts -- even if they can be seen as provocative -- must not lead to the accusation of serious criminal acts that lead to lengthy prison terms.”

Among those who signed the letter are both of the chamber’s opposition Greens parliamentary leaders, Juergen Trittin and Renate Kuenast, and the deputy faction leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic bloc, Michael Meister.

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

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