Pussy Riot - Jailed Russian Punks Launch Court Freedom Fight
Jailed Russian rockers Pussy Riot begged court officials in Moscow to free them on Wednesday (10Oct12), insisting their controversial protest at a church was politically motivated and not intended to insult religious worshippers.
Three members of the all-girl collective - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - were each handed two-year prison sentences in August (12) for performing a song railing against President Vladimir Putin in February (12).
They were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, but at an appeal hearing in the Russian capital on Wednesday, lawyers for the trio insisted the stunt was purely political.
Tolokonnikova, Alekhina, and Samutsevich also submitted statements in which they told of their fears the hearing will be their last chance of reducing their jail term.
Alekhina told the court, "We're all innocent... the verdict should be overturned. The Russian justice system looks discredited... We didn't want to offend worshippers."
The rockers' prison sentences sparked a campaign by stars including Sir Paul MCCartney and Madonna to overturn the verdict - but a recent poll in Russia revealed 43 per cent of citizens do not think the punishment is harsh enough.