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    Pussy Riot Member Goes Free; Two Other Members' Prison Terms Upheld

    Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich AFP/Getty Images

    Some good news for Pussy Riot fans—and democracy activists in Russia.

    Yekaterina Samutsevich, a member of the all-girl punk band, was given a suspended two-year sentence and ordered set free on Wednesday after appealing her August conviction on a hooliganism charge to a Moscow court. 

    Alas, a Moscow City judge upheld the two-year sentences of her fellow bandmates, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.

    Russian band Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in jail for hooliganism

    According to CNN, the court made its decision after determining that Samutsevich was stopped by a guard and never actually made it to the stage of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior where Pussy Riot performed a "punk prayer" protest song. The flash mob-style political act landed three out of the five members in jail on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred (the other two members have since fled Russia).

    Samutsevich's lawyer successfully argued that since the punk rocker was never actually able to take part in the performance, she shouldn't receive the same sentence as her bandmates.

    The judge agreed, and the ruling was greeted by cheers from Samutsevich's supporters inside the courtroom.

    The trio's arrest and the subsequent trial in which they were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison prompted an international outcry questioning Russia's commitment to free speech and human rights—particularly as Pussy Riot was demonstrating against President Vladimir Putin's close ties to the Russian Orthodox Church.

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    A number of celebrities expressed solidarity for the women, including Madonna, who praised the women in concert, as well as actors Adrien Grenier and Mia Farrow, who tweeted their support.  The harsh criticism Russia received from abroad also led former president-turned-prime minister Dmitry Medvedev to call for the women's sentences to be commuted on the grounds that the punishment didn't fit the crime.

    Even the Russian Orthodox Church has now called for leniency in their case, and human rights activists are continuing to press for the other band members' release.

    "Any decision that shortens the wrongful detention of the three women is welcome. But no-one should be fooled—justice has not been done today. The government has introduced numerous new restrictions to freedom of expression in recent months. As this decision demonstrates, Russia's judiciary is unlikely to offer much protection to those who fall foul of them," said David Diaz-Jogeix, Europe and Central Asia deputy programme director for Amnesty International, in a statement.

    Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who are both mothers, will serve out their terms in separate prisons.

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