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1 Russian punk rocker freed

  • Article by: WILL ENGLUND
  • Washington Post
  • October 10, 2012 - 11:01 PM

MOSCOW - One of the members of a feminist punk group convicted of hooliganism for storming into a cathedral and singing a protest song unexpectedly won her freedom on Wednesday.

Two other members of the band Pussy Riot had their sentences upheld by an appeals court and must serve two years in a prison camp.

Their case has won worldwide notoriety, with calls for their release from rock stars and political figures. Their target was President Vladimir Putin, who said last week that he thought their sentences were just. They continued to criticize him in court at Wednesday's hearing.

The members of the band went to the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral on Feb. 21, wearing ski masks, and sang a song against Putin. At their trial last summer, they were accused of inciting religious hatred.

The case has been portrayed as evidence of a crackdown by Putin on the more spirited members of the opposition that began taking to the streets in open protest in December 2011. Other activists also face a variety of criminal charges that could carry severe penalties.

The released woman, Yekaterina Samutsevich, had replaced her lawyers. Her supporters were quick to point out Wednesday that the attorneys who originally represented her are particularly disliked by Putin.

Samutsevich's father suggested that she was being rewarded for making the change; other allies saw an effort by the Kremlin to drive a wedge among members of the group and among other activists.

Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, both of whom have small children, kept the original defense team and now must serve their sentences.

The court decision releasing Samutsevich pointed out that she had not had time to join the others at the altar before security guards hustled them all out of the cathedral and she therefore deserved less blame.

At Wednesday's hearing, all three women argued that their protest was strictly political and not motivated by religious hatred.

"It is as clear as noon that our performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral was political rather than anti-religious. I have no religious hatred, and none of us had it in our performance," Tolokonnikova said. She said she felt repentance but not remorse.

"Repentance as a personal act is acceptable to us, but remorse is not, because this would mean that we acknowledge our guilt. It is impossible to feel remorse for something you did not do," she said.

© 2014 Star Tribune