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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014

Russian Orthodox Church Urges Mercy If Pussy Riot Members Repent

  • (Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)
    Pussy Riot members attend their trial inside the defendant's cell in a court in Moscow.
October 1, 2012|10:43 am

The day after the Russian Orthodox Church called for clemency for three jailed members of Pussy Riot if they repent for their "punk prayer," a court on Monday postponed the appeal of the punk rock band members until Oct. 10.

The delay in hearing the appeal may not have been linked to the call for mercy by the influential church. The Associated Press reports that one group member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, had fired her lawyers over an unspecified disagreement and has yet to sign a contract with another lawyer.

The three band members were sentenced in August to two years in prison for hooliganism for performing a "punk prayer" against President Vladimir Putin at Moscow's main cathedral. The band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Marina Alyokhina, and Samutsevich, "committed an act of hooliganism, a gross violation of public order showing obvious disrespect for society," the judge, Marina Syrova, said while delivering the verdict.

Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, said ahead of Monday's hearing that he doubted the appeal would be successful. "We never had hope in the Russian state. Now all we do is mount the public campaign and bring attention to the girls' case," Verzilov was quoted as saying.

While the church restated in a statement on Sunday that it condemns the women's actions, which "can't be left unpunished," it added that if they show "penitence and reconsideration of their action," their words "shouldn't be left unnoticed."

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev had also said earlier this month that keeping the band members in jail may be "unproductive." Their release would also help the government and the church to avoid further damage both domestically and internationally.

The conviction of the Pussy Riot members caused protests in several cities, including Oslo, Berlin, London and New York City, against repression in Putin's Russia. The president has drawn criticism for heavy-handed crackdown on dissent since his inauguration in May.

The judge said in August that the girls' actions "were sacrilegious, blasphemous and broke the church's rules," declaring the three guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. They had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow's main cathedral to belt out a song deriding Putin, she added.

Tikhon Shevkunov, Putin's de facto spiritual mentor and head of Moscow's Sretensky Monastery, had announced on state television after the verdict that his church forgave the band members after their "punk prayer" in Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February. "We did forgive them from the very start. But such actions should be cut short by society and authorities," he was quoted saying.

Archpriest Maxim Kozlov had also appeared on state television, saying the church hopes the women and their supporters would change their ways. "We are simply praying and hoping that these young women and all these people shouting in front of the court building, committing sacrilegious acts not only in Russia but in other countries, realize that their acts are awful," he said. "And despite this the church is asking for mercy within the limits of law."

The governments of the United States, Britain, France and Germany have also denounced the sentences as disproportionate.

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/russian-orthodox-church-urges-mercy-if-pussy-riot-members-repent-82468/