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One Pussy Riot member freed on appeal by Russian court

MOSCOW -- A member of punk band Pussy Riot was freed on appeal on Wednesday but a Moscow court upheld prison sentences for two others imposed over a raucous cathedral protest against Vladimir Putin, who said they had got the jail terms they deserved.

Yekaterina Samutsevich walked free from Moscow City Court after six months behind bars but the appeal judge who suspended her two-year sentence said fellow band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina should serve out their terms.

“I have mixed feelings,” Samutsevich, 30, said outside the court, where she was greeted by applause and whistles from a crowd of about 150 people in the rain. “I'm happy, of course, but I am upset about the girls.”

Her lawyer told the court that Samutsevich had not performed the 'punk protest' near the altar of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February because she had been stopped and led away before it took place.

Samutsevich's father Stanislav said he would take his daughter away for a time to rest but that when she returned to Moscow “she will fight for the rest of the girls.”

In emotional statements from a courtroom cage during the appeal hearing, women from the band said they had not meant to offend the faithful but criticized Putin, who foes say has cracked down on dissent since starting a new Kremlin term in May.

Tolokonnikova, 22, Alyokhina, 24, and Samutsevich, 30, were convicted in August of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a “punk prayer” imploring the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin, and sentenced to two years in jail.

In an interview aired on Sunday to mark his 60th birthday, Putin defended the sentences: “It is right that they were arrested and it was right that the court took this decision because you cannot undermine the fundamental morals and values to destroy the country.”

Defense lawyer Mark Feigin said those comments had compromised the appeal and Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina told the hearing their protest was purely political.

After the ruling, Feigin said Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina would continue to fight their conviction on procedural grounds. He said the only difference between what the women did in the cathedral was that Samutsevich spent 15 seconds at the altar compared to 45 seconds for his clients.

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Freed feminist punk group Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich, left, leaves a court in Moscow, Wednesday, Oct. 10.(AP)

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