Russian Orthodox Church Requests Clemency For Jailed Pussy Riot Members

The Russian Orthodox Church asked for clemency for three Pussy Riot members who were arrested after they sang a “punk prayer against President Vladimir Putin — as long as they repent for their crime first.

The church asked for clemency on Sunday in a statement just one day before an appeal hearing, reflecting a desire to end the case, which has caused international outrage, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Despite the offer, it’s unclear that the women, who have been sentenced to two years in prison, will offer the penitence sought by the church. It is also unclear how much leniency the court will show, because President Putin has always been reluctant to show that he might bow to public pressure.

Putin has also taken an increasingly tough stance on dissent since he was inaugurated in May. Monday’s appeal hearing has caught the women’s family members between hope and despair as they attempt to figure out whether the political tide of government and church officials will turn in their favor.

The Russian Orthodox Church reaffirmed its condemnation of the Pussy Riot members’ punk prayer, saying that their actions “can’t be left unpunished.” They added, however, that it the women show “penitence and reconsideration of their action” their words “shouldn’t be left unnoticed.”

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NBC News notes that Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev spoke earlier this month about how keeping the Pussy Riot members in prison any longer than they have already been would be “unproductive.” Medvedev’s statement gave hope that the appeals court could set the women free, but skeptics stated that similar things were said before their initial sentencing by Putin, who stated that the women should not be judged too harshly.

The women, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30 were arrested back in March after they danced and high-kicked while singing a song to the Virgin Mary in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, pleading with her to save Russia from President Putin. During their trial, they stated that they were protesting the Russian Orthodox church’s support for Putin, adding that they didn’t intend to offend religious believers.

Since their arrest, the government and the church have both received widespread criticism from the international community, with many people calling for their release.