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Pussy Riot face three years in Russian jail

Shaun Walker in Moscow

As the trial of three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot comes to a close in Moscow, state prosecutors are demanding a three-year jail sentence for the women.

The judge could give her verdict today.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (23), Maria Alekhina (24) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (29), face charges of hooliganism for their performance of a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February.

The prosecution has painted them as agents of nefarious forces intent on bringing down the Orthodox Church and Russia itself, while the defendants say the performance was a political protest about the church's support for President Vladimir Putin.

The performance saw five women, including the three on trial, rush to the space near the altar in the cathedral and dance maniacally. The video footage was later dubbed with the lyrics "Virgin Mary, chase out Putin".

The maximum sentence would be seven years, but after Mr Putin was quizzed on the case recently and said that the women should "not be judged too severely", it is unlikely the three would receive the harshest punishment.

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