Russia’s Supreme Court Orders Review of Pussy Riot Convictions

Russia’s top court ordered a review of the two-year prison sentence of two members of the all-female punk band Pussy Riot convicted of hooliganism for a protest against President Vladimir Putin.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina have young children, entitling them to defer their sentences, which lower courts didn’t take into account, according to a ruling posted late yesterday on the Supreme Court’s website.

The lower courts also failed to acknowledge mitigating circumstances including that it was the women’s first offense and that the protest was peaceful, according to the ruling. The Supreme Court sent their case back to the Moscow City Court.

Five Pussy Riot performers wearing colorful balaclavas sang a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012, calling on the Virgin Mary to “expel” Putin. A Moscow court jailed Tolokonnikova, Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich for inciting religious hatred and hooliganism in August 2012. Samutsevich was released on a suspended sentence, while the other two remain at large.

The case drew international condemnation, with support for Pussy Riot from pop stars such as Madonna, Sting and Paul McCartney. Putin praised the court ruling, saying the defendants “got what they wanted.”

Putin has submitted a draft amnesty to the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, that will apply to 20,000 to 22,000 people, human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said at a meeting of advocates with the president on Dec. 10.

Tolokonnikova and Alekhina may be offered freedom under the amnesty, which includes those charged with hooliganism, Vedomosti reported Dec. 9.

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