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Russian punk rocker freed; two others remain in prison

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is shown on a TV outside the courtroom where she sought her release. She was denied.

Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is shown on a TV outside the courtroom where she sought her release. She was denied.

MOSCOW — One of the members of a feminist punk group convicted of hooliganism for storming into a cathedral and singing a protest song, unexpectedly won her freedom on appeal Wednesday. Two other band members had their sentences upheld and must serve two years in a prison camp.

Their case has won worldwide notoriety, with calls for their release from rock stars and political figures. Their target was President Vladimir Putin, who said last week that their sentences were just.

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The members of the band went to the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on Feb. 21, wearing balaclava ski masks, and sang a song against Putin. At their trial last summer, they were accused of inciting religious hatred.

The released woman, Yekaterina Samutsevich, had replaced her lawyers before a previously scheduled hearing. Her supporters were quick to point out Wednesday that the attorneys who originally represented her — Violetta Volkova, Nikolai Polozov, and Mark Feigin — are particularly disliked by Putin. Samutsevich’s father suggested that she was being rewarded for making the change; other allies saw an effort by the Kremlin to drive a wedge among members of the band, called Pussy Riot, and among other activists as well.

Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, both of whom have small children, kept the original defense team.

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