21 August 2012 17:10

 MOSCOW - The website of a Moscow court that convicted three members of punk band Pussy Riot to two years in jail each for belting out a profanity-laced anti-Kremlin song inside a cathedral was hacked on Tuesday.

A slogan denouncing President Vladimir Putin was posted on the site as was an appeal for the trio's release along with a video clip of one of the band's latest anti-Putin songs and a clip by Bulgarian singer Azis, local media reported.

The hack attack - claimed by AnonymousRussia, which says it is affiliated with hacking activist group Anonymous - comes amid a chorus of criticism of the sentences, which Western governments and singers said were disproportionate and opponents of Putin called part of a crackdown on dissent.

A screenshot posted by opposition activist Ilya Yashin on Twitter showed the court's web page topped by an inscription reading: "Putin's thieving gang is plundering our country! Wake up, comrades!"

Another caption called for the release of the band's jailed members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Marina Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30.

The site of Moscow's Khamovniki district court/ was operating normally by noon (0800 GMT) but its hacked version was on display for several hours on Tuesday morning.

Darya Lyakh, a spokeswoman for the court, said a department of the Supreme Court had asked federal investigators to look into the hacking attack.

The high-profile trial ended on Friday with two-year sentences for the three women who were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

The judge said they had deliberately offended Russian Orthodox believers by storming the altar of Moscow's main cathedral in February where they had sung a "punk prayer" urging the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

The women said their aim had been to criticise close ties between the state and the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, whose leader offered support to Putin in the run-up to his reelection to the presidency in March after four years as prime minister.

The United States and the European Union called the sentences disproportionate and Washington has urged Russian authorities to "review" the case.

Human rights groups and musicians including Madonna and Paul McCartney have also criticised the trial, but opinion polls indicate few Russians sympathise with Pussy Riot and support from local musicians has been muted.

On Monday, Russia police said they were searching for other members of Pussy Riot and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Western criticism of the sentences, saying people should not "go into hysterics" about the case.