MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered a review of the two-year prison sentence handed down to two members of the anti-Kremlin feminist punk group Pussy Riot, saying that the convicting court did not take into account all the mitigating factors when announcing the sentence.
The ruling comes three months before the punk protesters Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 24, and Maria Alyokhina, 25, are due to be released from prison. They were convicted in 2012 of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for performing a brief anti-government musical protest in a Moscow cathedral.
In the ruling dated December 10 posted on its website, the Supreme Court said that though prosecutors had proved the women were motivated by religious hatred and enmity, it was never established that they acted out of hatred toward a social group.
The Moscow court also ignored the women’s young ages, the fact that they both have small children and that their crime was non-violent, the Supreme Court said.
The Supreme Court has referred the case to a Moscow court tasked with reviewing sentences that have already entered into force.
The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal in May by Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who were sentenced in August 2012 alongside fellow Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich for staging a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral earlier that year. The defense team then appealed that ruling to Russia's Supreme Court.
Samutsevich was released from prison in October last year after an appeal court commuted her sentence to a suspended one.
The two remaining jailed women may also be eligible for release under a proposed government amnesty currently under consideration by the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament.
Under the amnesty, planned to mark the 20th anniversary of the adoption of Russia’s constitution, prisoners serving sentences of up to five years for non-violent crimes who have not previously served jail time are eligible for release. Russia’s human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin estimated the amnesty would affect as many as 22,000 people serving jail or suspended sentences or currently facing criminal charges.
A Russian court rejected a plea from Alyokhina in January to have her prison sentence deferred until her six-year-old son reaches the age of 14.