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Amnesty calls on Russia to release feminist punk band Pussy Riot

Three members of the group have been held since March, accused of storming the altar of a Moscow church to perform an anti-Putin song.

Russia pussy riot 12 04 05Enlarge
A supporter of the female Russian punk band Pussy Riot picket pickets the police headquarters in Moscow on Mar. 8, 2012, shortly after three members of the group were arrested for allegedly storming the altar of a Moscow church and performing a protest song. (ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Amnesty International has joined calls for Russian authorities to release the feminist punk band Pussy Riot that was arrested in March after storming a Church in Moscow.

Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samusevich are accused of being among a group of five people wearing balalaikas who climbed onto the altar of the Orthodox Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February, and sang a song denouncing what they say is the Orthodox Church's support for the Prime Minister and president-elect Vladimir Putin, AFP reports.

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In a statement on its website, Amnesty International says: "Even if the three arrested women did take part in the protest, the severity of Russian authorities’ response - detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism - would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful (if, to many, offensive) expression of their political beliefs, and they would therefore be prisoners of conscience."

In response, the Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Vigilyansky told RIA Novosti that Amnesty's comments were an “insult to those genuine prisoners of conscience who have suffered under totalitarian regimes such as China, Iran, the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Germany.”

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The Moscow Times reports that nine Estonian politicians have already written to Putin asking that the women be released, and the Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves attended a concert in the capital Tallinn on Sunday in support of their cause.

Alekhina, Tolokonnikova, and Samusevich are currently in pre-trial detention until Apr. 25, Radio Free Europe says.  They face up to seven years in jail if convicted to hooliganism.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120404/amnesty-calls-russia-release-feminist-punk-band-pussy-rio