Russian prosecutors seek 3-year jail term for Pussy Riot

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Prosecutors have asked a Moscow court to lock up members of the Pussy Riot girl band for three years after they insulted President Vladimir Putin in a song, as pop star Madonna made a plea for clemency.

As the full hearings in the controversial trial went into a second week, the state prosecutor Alexander Nikiforov said the young women's crime was so severe they needed to be isolated from society.

"This crime is severe and the prosecution considers that their correction is only possible in conditions of isolation from society and the punishment needed must be a real deprivation of freedom," Nikiforov told the court.

On the eve of key presidential polls in March, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina barged into Christ the Saviour Cathedral and performed an anti-Putin ‘punk prayer’ to protest his ultimately successful bid for a third Kremlin term.

The three women, all in their 20s, were detained in March and charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.

The prosecutor asked the court to find the women, two of whom have young children, ‘guilty of the crime and set them the following punishment: deprivation of freedom for three years and punishment in a penal colony of a general regime’.

The Pussy Riot trial has polarised the predominantly Orthodox country, with the prosecution arguing that the performance was intended to offend believers. The girl band's case has been taken up by celebrities including the pop star Sting, US rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers before Madonna waded into the debate on her arrival in Moscow for a sell-out concert.

The US pop diva said ahead of her concert on Tuesday she hoped the band members would be allowed to walk away free, adding that a lengthy jail term would be a ‘tragedy’.

"I am against censorship and my whole career I always promoted freedom of expression, freedom of speech, so obviously I think what's happening to them is unfair...I hope they do not have to serve seven years in jail," Madonna told Western journalists in comments picked up by Russian media.

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