As the outcry continues after the anti-Putin Pussy Riot singers were jailed for two years over a 50-second cathedral protest, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov was arrested for his protestations outside the court.
After today’s staggering news, leader of the opposition, the mild-mannered Kasparov was shown in forceful terms that the the Russian security forces are clamping down on unrest.
The pictures clearly show Kasparov being manhandled by the Russian police as a growing clamour of disbelief begins to spread at the severe sentencing.
By Will Stewart,
The Daily Mail (London)
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Arrested: Police officers detain former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, a leading opposition activist, outside the court
n you go: The detaining of Kasparov shows the hard line the Russian security forces are taking
In what many viewed as a ‘show trial’, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, who both have children, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, sat behind a glass wall as Judge Marina Syrova convicted them of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’.
In a judgement lasting almost two hours, the judge – who has only once given a not guilty verdict in 179 hearings – ruled that the trio showed ‘clear disrespect to society’ by staging their ‘Punk Prayer’ in Moscow’s biggest cathedral on February 21 when they belted out a raucous chorus calling on the Virgin Mary to ‘drive out Putin’.
Time to reflect: The Pussy Riot band members show the court’s written verdict as they sit in a glass cage surrounded by the world’s media
They had offended the feelings of Orthodox believers, she added, before sentencing them to ‘two years deprivation of liberty in a penal colony’.
The verdict – which could see them sent to Siberian labour camps – is likely to spark a weekend of protest in Russia and in cities around the world.
Their two years will count from their arrest so they can expect releases in March 2014 unless pardoned by Putin.
But Russian dissident and blogger Alexei Navalny said: ‘They are in jail because it is Putin’s personal revenge.
‘This verdict was written by Vladimir Putin.’
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, right, are led into the court wearing handcuffs
In London a fortnight ago for the Olympics, Putin had said the women ‘should not be judged too severely’. Yesterday calls were starting for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.
While the sentence for ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ was relatively light compared with the seven-year maximum, the case is widely seen as a ‘show trial’ warning to others daring to challenge Putin’s ‘authoritarian rule’.
The trio had expected no mercy for their political protest. Tolokonnikova said shortly before the verdict, which she assumed was written in the Kremlin: ‘I do not believe in this court. There is no court. It is an illusion.’
Russian opposition leader Kasparov, the former chess world champion, was one of dozens arrested outside the court in a huge security clampdown.
A topless women’s rights activist hacked down a Christian cross in the Ukrainian capital Kiev with a chain saw on Friday in protest at the prosecution of the Russian feminist punk band, Pussy Riot
Later there were claims he was beaten but also that he bit a policeman, which could mean he will face charges.
The US denounced the sentences as ‘disproportionate’.
Western campaigners were led by Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna in the run-up to the trial.
Yesterday Amnesty International dubbed the court’s ruling a ‘bitter blow’ to freedom of expression in Russia.
In London, around 50 people gathered at the Royal Court theatre in a show of support for the women.
Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt said: ‘I am deeply concerned by the sentencing of three members of the band Pussy Riot, which can only be considered a disproportionate response to an expression of political belief.’
The White House on Friday condemned the “disproportionate” two-year prison sentence a Russian judge imposed on members of the punk band Pussy Riot, found guilty of “hooliganism” for an event mocking Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“The United States is disappointed by the verdict, including the disproportionate sentences that were granted,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.