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Russian prosecutor: "Give Pussy Riot three years"

Prosecutors want Pussy Riot to be given three years in prison for 'religious hatred.' It is less than half of the maximum jail sentence and comes after President Putin said the group should not be excessively punished.

A Moscow judge on Wednesday announced that the verdict in the trial against the all-women punk group Pussy Riot would be handed down on August 17, after prosecutors had called for the defendants to be sentenced to three years in prison.

The three women face charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a "punk prayer" at Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The "prayer" called for the Virgin Mary to strip President Vladimir Putin of his power.

Band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, has likened the trial to "a political order for repression" that meets "the standards of Stalinist troikas." During Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin's reign, troikas served as fast-track courts to stifle dissent.  

Prosecution calls for three years

The prosecution has called for the defendants to be sentenced to three years in jail. Along with Tolokonnikova, 24-year-old Maria Alyokhina and 29-year-old Yekaterina Samutsevich are also on trial for the Moscow cathedral performance.

Watch video 01:19

Pussy Riot verdict to come on August 17

"The actions of the accomplices clearly show religious hatred and enmity," state prosecutor Alexei Nikiforov said in his closing arguments.

"Using swear words in a church is an abuse of God."

The three band members have a maximum seven-year jail sentence looming over them for their conduct. But President Putin said last week that he did not think the band should be "judged so harshly", though he said it was for the court to decide. 

Calls for leniency

Madonna performing in Abu Dhabi

Madonna has spoken in defense of Pussy Riot

"I hope the court will come out with the right decision, a well-founded one," Putin said, which was reported by Russian news agencies during his visit to London to attend the Olympics.

World-famous pop musician Madonna, who is currently doing a concert tour in Russia, also on Tuesday, spoke out against the Pussy Riot trial, calling for them to not be jailed and likening their trial to a medieval inquisition.

"I hope they do not have to serve seven years in jail. That would be a tragedy," Madonna said.

"I think art should be political. Historically speaking, art always reflects what's going on socially. So for me, it's hard to separate the idea of being an artist and being political," she added.

sej,slk /tj (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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