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Pussy Riot Member Freed from Behind Bars

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Oct 10, 2012 | 5:25am EDT

pussy riot freed

Get your minds out of the gutter. The headline doesn't refer to a bad, graphic adult movie, but Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot. The group was arrested in March for performing a song with lyrics critical to President Vladimir Putin on the altar of a Russian Orthodox church. On Wednesday, the three female band members — Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 — appeared in a Moscow appeals court to face their two-year prison sentences for "hooliganism." While Aloykhina and Tolokonnikova's sentences were upheld, Samutsevich's was suspended, USA Today reports.

Samutsevich's sentence was suspended because guards reportedly threw her out of the cathedral before she could take her guitar out of its case and perform. "The punishment for an incomplete crime is much lighter than for a completed one," her attorney, Irina Khrunova, said. "She did not participate in the actions the court found constituted hooliganism."

While all three women were convicted in August of hooliganism that was said to be motivated by religious hatred, the band members claim that their February performance was just a political protest and not an attack on religion. "If we unintentionally offended any believers with our actions, we express our apologies," Samutsevich said in court. "The idea of the protest was political, not religious. In this and in previous protests we acted against the current government of the president, and against the Russian Orthodox Church as an institution of the Russian government, against the political comments of the Russian patriarch. Exactly because of this I don't consider that I committed a crime."

The case has been criticized around the world as an example of Putin's increasing control over order. "It is impermissible to undermine our moral foundations, moral values, to try to destroy the country," Putin recently said of the band's protest.

"We will not be silent," Alyokhina said Wednesday. "And even if we are in Mordovia or Siberia (where prisoners in Russia are often sent to serve out their terms) we won't be silent." Tolokonnikova added: "I don't consider myself guilty. But again I ask all those who are listening to me for the last time: I don't want people to be angry at me: Yes, I'm going to prison, but I don't want anyone to think that there is any hatred in me."

Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.

[Photo Credit: Natalia Kolesnikova/Getty Images]

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