The Ticket

Obama spokesman condemns ‘disproportionate’ prison term for Russian punk band members

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

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Members of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" sit in a glass-walled cage after a court hearing in Moscow (Maxim …

The White House on Friday condemned the "disproportionate" two-year prison sentence a Russian judge imposed on members of the punk band Pussy Riot, found guilty of "hooliganism" for an event mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The United States is disappointed by the verdict, including the disproportionate sentences that were granted," spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.

"While we understand the group's behavior was offensive to some, we have serious concerns about the way these young women have been treated by the "Russian judicial system," Earnest said. He did not use the band's name.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland bluntly urged Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld."

"The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia," Nuland said in a written statement. Three members of Pussy Riot were found guilty of  hooliganism and sentenced to two years in jail in connection to an incident earlier this year in which they mocked Putin during a "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral.

Judge Marina Syrova announced the verdict from a district court in central Moscow, about two miles from the Christ the Savior Cathedral where the guerrilla group and feminist collective performed its "flash" stunt.

The band members—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30—have been in jail since their March 3 arrest, several weeks after the performance. International free-speech advocates have raised a hue and cry over their case.

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