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Russia's Medvedev Says Female Punk Rockers Should Go Free

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says the three jailed members of the politically radical punk rock band Pussy Riot should have their sentences commuted to time served.

"In my view, a suspended sentence would be sufficient, taking into account the time they have already spent in custody," The Associated Press quoted Medvedev as saying during a televised meeting with members of his United Russia Party.

The band members were convicted last month for staging a prayer sit-in at Moscow's main cathedral to denounce President Vladimir Putin ahead of his successful re-election bid. The three had spent five months in jail awaiting trial before being found guilty of "hooliganism driven by religious hatred."

Medvedev is subordinate to Putin, so it's unclear how much weight his call for the punk rockers' release might carry. The arrest and trial of the women has drawn the ire of international human rights and free-speech advocates.

As a verdict was awaited last month, Putin himself said the women shouldn't be judged too harshly, leading to speculation that they might get only time served.

Instead, on Aug. 17 the judge in the trial sentenced the defendants to two years in a penal colony, saying the women had "crudely undermined the social order."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.