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Anti-Putin Russian Female Punk Band Found Guilty of 'Hooliganism' -- Get 2 Yrs in Jail

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Slideshow: Protesters turn out to support the band Video: Topless protester cuts down cross in anger (blurred version) Watch: The performance that started it all --

UPDATE:

The AP reports that the group has been sentenced:

A Moscow judge sentenced three members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot to two years in prison each on hooliganism charges on Friday following a trial that has drawn international outrage as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of dissent.

The trial sparked a wave of protests around the world in support of the feminist rockers, who have been dubbed prisoners of conscience by international rights group. Hundreds of Pussy Riot supporters chanted "Russia without Putin!" amid a heavy police presence outside the courtroom, and several opposition leaders were detained.

Original story below.

MOSCOW (TheBlaze/AP) -- A Russian judge found three members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism on Friday, in one of the most closely watched cases in recent Russian history.

The judge said the three band members committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred and offending religious believers.

The three were arrested in March after a guerrilla performance in Moscow's main cathedral calling for the Virgin Mary to protect Russia against Vladimir Putin, who was elected to a new term as Russia's president a few days later.

Business Insider has more on the incident, which some question took place like authorities claim:

A man who prepares the church for service said that the band were "dressed improperly" and "hopping around" as they shouted "blasphemous words," adding that he thinks the band meant to insult believers.

Another worker of the church described a physical struggle that occurred when guards tried to stop the performance, saying the women were "imitating Satanic movements with their hands."

He testified that parishioners "demanded that the blasphemy be stopped."

One Orthodox parishioner who worked at the cathedral testified that "their actions deeply affected her religious beliefs and insulted them" and another man said that he "suffered moral damage."

Witnesses keep saying that the video of the performance posted online contained audio that did not occur at the time and that they did not hear any political slogans during the short performance.

You can watch the performance in question below:

They face a maximum seven years in prison. The sentence is to be handed down later Friday.

The case has attracted international attention as an emblem of Russia's intolerance of dissent. It also underlines the vast influence of the Russian Orthodox Church. Although church and state are formally separate, the church identifies itself as the heart of Russian national identity and critics say its strength effectively makes it a quasi-state entity.

Protests timed to just before the verdict or soon afterward were planned in more than three dozen cities worldwide.

Prosecutors have asked for three-year sentences, down from the possible seven-year maximum and Putin himself has said he hopes the sentencing is not "too severe."

Celebrities including Paul McCartney, Madonna and Bjork have called for them to be freed, and protests are planned around the world Friday.

Before Friday's proceedings began, defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov said the women "hope for an acquittal but they are ready to continue to fight."

There was a heavy police presence around the court building in central Moscow, where hundreds of protesters and band supporters were gathering. Many protesters have been gathering around the world to show support for the band. You can see some of them below:

In fact, the infamous, topless protest group FEMEN recently cut down a cross in Russia to show their thoughts on the trial (the stunt has been appropriately blurred out):

Even if the women are sentenced only to time already served, the case has already strongly clouded Russia's esteem overseas and stoked the resentment of opposition partisans who have turned out in a series of massive rallies since last winter.

The case comes in the wake of several recently passed laws cracking down on opposition, including one that raised the fine for taking part in an unauthorized demonstrations by 150 times to 300,000 rubles (about $9,000).

Another measure requires non-government organizations that both engage in vaguely defined political activity and receive funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents."

This is a breaking story. Updates will be added.

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