Russian court orders Pussy Riot videos be banned from Internet

MOSCOW Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:18am IST

Members of the female punk band ''Pussy Riot'' stage a protest inside Christ The Saviour Cathedral in Moscow in this still image taken from file video February 21, 2012. REUTERS/Pussy Riot Group/Reuters TV/Handout/Files

Members of the female punk band ''Pussy Riot'' stage a protest inside Christ The Saviour Cathedral in Moscow in this still image taken from file video February 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Pussy Riot Group/Reuters TV/Handout/Files

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot on Wednesday lost an appeal against an Internet ban on their music videos, including one showing a protest song for which three band members were jailed.

A Moscow City Court upheld a lower court's November decision deeming the videos "extremist". Wednesday's ruling that meant that four Pussy Riot videos were banned from the web.

The videos were still available on sites hosted outside Russia, including the Google-owned YouTube (GOOG.O).

The court rejected an appeal by one band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, who said the ban violated freedom of speech.

"I think it's illegal - that is obvious," Samutsevich, 30, said outside the court. She said she would lodge a new appeal, but the ruling meant the videos must be removed from Russian websites.

Samutsevich and two bandmates were convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for their "punk prayer" - which called on the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of President Vladimir Putin - in Christ the Saviour cathedral, where the Russian Orthodox Church holds its main Easter and Christmas services.

She was freed in October when her sentence was suspended on appeal, but Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina remain in prison.

The band said they were protesting the close ties between the government and the church, whose leader praised Putin during his successful campaign for a March 2012 presidential election.

The lower court judge said the videos contained "words and actions which humiliate various social groups based on their religion" as well as calls for mutiny and "mass disorder" and that they could ignite racial and religious hatred.

Kremlin critics called the jailing of Pussy Riot part of a drive to silence dissent and the United States and other Western countries called the punishment excessive.

Putin rejected the criticism, saying the feelings of Russian Orthodox and other believers must be protected.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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