Members of the Russian punk rock band Pussy Riot were arrested for performing a song criticizing Russian leader Vladimir Putin in front of an altar on February 21.
Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were in remand five months before the trial even got started at the end of July. A Moscow court on Friday convicted and sentenced the three women to two years in prison for hooliganism and blasphemy.
In their performance the women danced and sang a song, imploring the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin. They said their "punk prayer" was a political act to oppose the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin in the March elections.
The prosecutor said the performance showed religious hatred and enmity.
The prosecution of these women, two of whom have small children, prompted EU politicians and human rights organizations to demand their release. But Sweden was surprisingly slow to back the singers, according to writer and free speech activist Kurdo Baksi.
"Now I see public support for the Pussy Riot girls. But the politicians have not done anything in Sweden. They have been very careful. In Germany 121 members of parliament have sent a protest to Putin to free the members of Pussy Riot," Baksi told Radio Sweden.
Baksi wanted to change that. This afternoon he hosted a demonstration outside the Russian Embassy in Stockholm, while a Moscow court delivered its guilty verdict.
Baksi said he took the initiative because Sweden was among the last countries to take a stand on the issue, compared with England and the United States. Madonna and even Paul McCartney, Putin's favorite musician, have given their support to the Pussy Riot women.
While Amnesty International has gathered at least 70,000 signatures in the US for a petition demanding Putin free the Pussy Riot singers, it wasn't until this week that Swedish PEN highlighted the case by making the three singers honorary members.
Baksi said he hopes to put pressure on Swedish politicians to take a stand for free speech and show Putin that Swedish people are angry too.