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Pussy Riot Member Released from Prison

MOSCOW (AP) — A jailed member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot, who was found guilty of hooliganism after a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, has been released from prison, her lawyer said Monday.

Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in prison for the performance at Moscow’s main cathedral in March 2012. Samutsevich was released several months later on suspended sentence.

The band insisted that their protest was meant to raise their concern about increasingly close ties between the state and the church.

Alekhina’s lawyer, Irina Khrunova, told The Associated Press that Alekhina was released from the prison colony outside the Volga river city of Nizhny Novgorod on Monday morning. Khrunova said that upon release Alekhina went into town to meet with human rights activists.

The Russian parliament passed an amnesty bill last week, allowing the release of thousands of inmates. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova qualify for amnesty because they have small children. The amnesty has been largely viewed as the Kremlin’s attempt to soothe criticism of Russia’s human rights records ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February.

Tolokonnikova, who is serving time in a Siberian prison, is also expected to be released this week, her husband Pyotr Verzilov said.

Both bandmates were scheduled for release in March.

Russia’s Supreme Court earlier this month ordered a review of the Pussy Riot case, saying that a lower court did not fully prove their guilt and did not take their family circumstances into consideration when passing on the verdict.

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