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Pussy Riot Prosecutor Calls for 3-Year Jail Term: 'Feminism Is a Mortal Sin'

- Common Dreams staff

Russian prosecutors on Tuesday called for a three year jail term for three members of punk band Pussy Riot. Prosecutors accused the band members of insulting Russian Orthodoxy and posing a danger to society, after performing one of their songs in a Moscow cathedral. The defendants, however, argue that their song titled, "Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out", was not an act of religious hatred, but an act of political protest.

Pussy Riot members (from left) Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Aliokhina during their trial. (Photo: Maxim Shipenkov/EPA) The court heard closing arguments Tuesday.

"This crime is severe and the prosecution considers that their correction is only possible in conditions of isolation from society and the punishment needed must be a real deprivation of freedom," State prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov told the court.

"All the defendants talked about being feminists and said that is allowed in the Russian Orthodox church," said Yelena Pavlova, a lawyer for several of the nine victims who said they were insulted by Pussy Riot's performance. "This does not correspond with reality. Feminism is a mortal sin," she said.

The Pussy Riot case has caused an international outcry, calling on Russia to protect free speech and end political persecutions. The trial has re-focused attention on a crackdown on dissent since Putin returned to presidency on May 7. The members considered their act as part of an anti-Putin protest movement, which saw the biggest demonstrations since Putin's rise to power in 2000 last winter.

Pussy Riot's defense lawyers argued Tuesday that the performance was an act of opposition against Putin and was not motivated by religious hatred. "The 'prayer' they sang was a political one," lawyer Violetta Volkova said.

Defense lawyer Mark Feygin stated, "Russia has no rule of law. Russia has no justice system. Nothing has changed from Soviet times," in a speech to the court room, which ended with applause from the journalists witnessing the trial.

According to Feygin, a guilty verdict would "tear up relations between society and government". "Society will never forgive the government" for jailing three innocent women, he said.

Opposition activists have called for an impromptu protest to be held on August 19th.

The sentence could be announced anytime this week.