The Supreme Council of the Russian Orthodox Church asked the authorities to show mercy toward the three members of the Pussy Riot punk band who were sentenced to two years in prison on Friday.
“We ask the authorities to show mercy to the convicts, hoping that they will not repeat their blasphemous actions,” the council said in a statement, adding that the church considers the legitimacy of the court’s ruling indisputable.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were convicted for staging an anti-Kremlin “punk prayer” in a central Moscow cathedral in February.
The three have already spent more than five months in pretrial detention, which, according to Russian legislation, is the equivalent of ten months in prison.
The case, which has been a cause celebre for Russia's liberal opposition, has polarized Russian society and drew plenty of international attention. The group members and their supporters claim the trial was masterminded by the Kremlin, enraged by their protest. Kremlin representatives have denied the allegations.