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Court bans video of Pussy Riot's performance

The Associated Press, Thursday, November 29, 2012, 6:41am (PST)

MOSCOW (AP) — The video of punk band Pussy Riot's performance in Russia's main cathedral is extremist and must be removed from the web, a Moscow court ruled Thursday.

Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky court banned the video of the group's February performance, ordering it and three other videos to be removed from all websites. Prosecutors began looking into the Pussy Riot videos after a nationalist lawmaker suggested that they insulted believers.

The performance was protesting Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency in March's election and the outspoken support for his bid by the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Pussy Riot's videos were banned under Russia's vaguely defined "extremism" law, which is supposed to restrict neo-Nazi and terrorist groups. Critics accuse the Kremlin of exploiting the law to stifle opposition and free speech.

In September, Russian courts banned "The Innocence of Muslims," a low-budget movie that portrays Muhammad as a fraud and child molester.

Internet providers will be required to block access to the Pussy Riot video in a month if no appeal is filed. Russian web guru Anton Nosik told the Interfax news agency that Russians would doubtless be able to access the video anyway on servers based outside Russia and not subject to the law.

Three members of Pussy Riot were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August and sentenced to two years in prison in a case that drew condemnation from many in the West.

One of them, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was later released on appeal but two others, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, were sentenced to prison colonies.

Putin's critics described the Pussy Riot trial as a political vendetta.

Samutsevich appealed Thursday's court ruling banning the video, but her appeal is unlikely to be heard since the judge had refused to consider her as a party in the case.

"This is clearly coming to censorship, the censorship of political art," Samutsevich told The Associated Press.

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