Though one Pussy Riot member was released, two other convicted Pussy Riot members are headed to prison camp in Siberia. Activists say the move is political theater.
One member of the controversial performance art collective Pussy Riot will be freed on parole but the other two are Siberia-bound, after a Moscow appeals court upheld their sentence of two years in a penal colony Wednesday.
Supporters and opponents of the group demonstrated outside the courthouse as lawyers inside revisited the case of the profane Feb. 21 "punk prayer" inside Moscow's premier Orthodox cathedral.
The three women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, continued to insist they are innocent of "religious hatred," the charge on which they were convicted in August, and repeated that the 40-second performance in the church was a political protest against the Orthodox Patriarch's public support for candidate Vladimir Putin in the presidential elections.
The appeal judges rejected those arguments, but handed Ms. Samutsevich a suspended sentence after accepting a plea by her new lawyers that she should be treated differently because she did not actually take part in the performance. It was not explained why the fact that Samutsevich was detained by church security before she could take out her guitar and join the other women – which has been known from the outset – wasn't taken into account in the original trial.
Supporters of Pussy Riot argue that the entire affair has been a show trial aimed at intimidating dissenters and that the slight correction made by the appeals court is just more political theater.
"The authorities are trying to adjust their image, to look maybe not so tough before the international community," says Sergei Davidis, a lawyer and member of the Solidarnost opposition movement.