Russia frees one Pussy Riot member, keeps two in jail

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A Russian appeals court Wednesday ordered the release of one member of anti-Vladimir Putin punk band Pussy Riot after giving her a suspended term but ordered two others serve two years in a prison camp. Maria Alyokhina, 24, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, were contesting their conviction for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred over performing a song opposing Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral in February. The judge at the Moscow city court ordered the release of Samutsevich, 30, after giving her a two-year suspended prison camp term. However the two-year prison camp sentences of Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were upheld. The release of Samutsevich was a major surprise but came after at the first appeals hearing on October 1 she announced she was changing her lawyer. Her new lawyer argued she had been apprehended before taking part in the performance. Judge Larisa Polyakova ruled “to leave Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova’s sentences without changes” while bowing to the appeal filed on behalf of Samutsevich, who was judged not to have actually been involved in the “Punk Prayer”. “This is of course unexpected,” Yekaterina’s father Stanislav Samutsevich told AFP after the ruling. “This is a great happiness.” He added: “On the one hand, I am very glad. On the other hand, I am disappointed by the decision in relation to the other girls.”