Pussy Riot Case: Russian Supreme Court Details Errors in Guilty Verdict

Pussy Riot members at their Moscow trial in August, 2012
Pussy Riot members at their Moscow trial in August, 2012
 Getty Images

MOSCOW -- Early freedom for the two jailed members of punk band Pussy Riot edged closer to reality Thursday after the Russian Supreme Court formally ordered a review of their guilty verdicts.

In detailed comments published on its website ordering a case review on Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- convicted by a Moscow court in August 2012 for "religiously motivated hooliganism" in an anti-Kremlin stunt in a major cathedral city's Christ the Savior Cathedral -- the Supreme Court detailed legal errors in their cases.

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The Supreme Court said the lower court had neither proven "hatred" by the women, who are now serving two year sentences in Russian penal colonies, nor taken into consideration their status as mothers of young children.

"The court did not provide any proof that Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, were motivated by hatred toward any social group in its verdict," the Supreme Court said in the decision.

No account was taken of "extenuating circumstances," they said -- such as the fact that Alyokhina's son is just six years old and Tolokonnikova's daughter five.

The lower court did not pay any attention to the fact that neither women had previous convictions, the "nonviolent nature of their illegal actions," or that the victims of their actions did not want them punished so harshly, the Supreme Court added.

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The plight of the women has been the focus of international protests and appeals for clemency by show-business figures, including Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna.

Three members of Pussy Riot were arrested following the protest on February 17, 2012, at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral, a leading place of worship for the country's majority Orthodox population. One member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on appeal, but appeals for the other two were rejected.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have just three months left to serve. Even if the lower court review is swift and complies with the Supreme Court ruling, it may at best only shave a few weeks off their jail time.

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