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Europe

Pro-Pussy Riot demonstrators arrested in Marseille

media A balaclava-clad protester demonstrates in solidarity with Pussy Riot in … Reuters/Vincent Kessler

Demonstrators protesting at Russia’s jailing of punk band Pussy Riot were arrested by police in the southern French city of Marseille for breaking France’s controversial law against face-covering garments. The French government joined Western governments in condemning the two-year prison sentence for what Judge Marina Syrova declared was “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

France’s foreign ministry described Pussy Riot’s balaclava-clad performance in a Moscow church as “minor acts” and, like the US, Germany, the UK and several other countries, condemned the verdict as an attack on the freedom of expression.

But protesters in Marseille who donned balaclavas in solidarity with the three young women - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were rounded up after just 10 minutes outside the Russian consulate in the city, the local paper La Provence reports.

Police said that they had broken France’s ban on covering one’s face in public, introduced in 2009 under former president Nicolas Sarkozy to prevent Muslim women wearing burkas and other clothing that conceals their identities.

A demonstration of about 200 people in Paris took place without incident.

The Pussy Riot members are to appeal against their sentence.

In an unusually firm reaction, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called the verdict "politically motivated intimidation" and called for the verdict to be overturned "in line with Russia's international commitments".

>> Check out the slideshow on RFI's website in Russian: Pussy Riot protests all over the world

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