Madonna, others rally behind female punk group on trial for ‘prayer’ in Moscow cathedral

Pussy Riot, all-female band from Russia.
(Photo by Igor Mukhin)
Story by Henry Meyer
(Bloomberg News)
Sat, Aug 4, 2012
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MOSCOW — Music stars including Peter Gabriel, Sting and Madonna rallied behind three members of a Russian all- female punk group facing seven years in jail for a protest act against Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior cathedral.

Sting, who performed in Moscow and St. Petersburg last week, said it was “appalling” that the Pussy Riot band members may be imprisoned. “Dissent is a legitimate and essential right in any democracy and modern politicians must accept this fact with tolerance,” he wrote on his website.

Peter Gabriel wrote a letter of support addressed to Maria Alekhina, 24; Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29; and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, which was posted Wednesday on the Facebook page of Russian music producer Alexander Cheparukhin. Madonna, who will give concerts in Russia next week, said on Russian channel NTV she was “sorry” to hear about the detention of the three women.

The crackdown on the group’s Feb. 21 cathedral stunt, which was described as “disgusting” by President Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, reflects efforts to contain the worst political unrest since the Russian leader came to power 12 years ago. Amnesty International has declared the Pussy Riot three, whose trial began Wednesday, as prisoners of conscience.

Visiting bands the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Franz Ferdinand have also expressed support for Pussy Riot at concerts in Russia this month. The band performed what they called a “punk prayer” in front of the altar at the country’s main Christian Orthodox place of worship, in masks and wearing skimpy dresses. “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, expel Putin,” Pussy Riot sang.

British comedian Stephen Fry urged his 4.6 million Twitter account followers Thursday to “do everything to help” Pussy Riot.

The young women rejected criminal charges of hooliganism at the start of their trial in a Moscow court, arguing that their case should be treated as an administrative violation, while apologizing for upsetting religious sensibilities.

Top Russian cultural figures, including Putin supporters, have also come to their defense. The three defendants have been ordered to be kept in pre-trial detention until January.

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