Verdict date for Pussy Riot band

The three Russian feminist band members on trial over an anti-Vladimir Putin protest will know their fate next week.

A Moscow judge has wrapped up the hearing and said she would issue a verdict in the controversial case a week on Friday.

Prosecutors have called for three-year prison sentences for the Pussy Riot members, who have already been in custody for five months after giving an impromptu performance in Moscow's main cathedral to call for an end to Mr Putin's rule.

The three women - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Maria Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 - high-kicked and danced as they belted out their "punk prayer" in Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February. They were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years.

Their case has sharply divided Russia. Some believers felt offended, while other Russians have been angered by what they see as repressive treatment for the expression of political beliefs. Orthodox leaders have ignored calls to pardon the women and urge the court to dismiss the case.

The trial has been seen as part of the widening government crackdown on dissent that followed Mr Putin's election in March to a third presidential term.

"With every day an increasing number of people start to realise that if the political machine turned against girls who performed in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral for 40 seconds, this means only that this political system is scared of the truth and the sincerity that we bring," Tolokonnikova said in her final words, addressing a packed court.

Tolokonnikova said in a trembling voice, looking at prosecutors: "We have more freedom than all those people from the prosecution in front of me - because we can say what we want."

Defence lawyers said that activists around the world will show their solidarity with the band by holding a global protest on the day Judge Marina Syrova is to issue her verdict. .

Amnesty International has called the women prisoners of conscience. Musicians including Madonna, the Who's Pete Townsend and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys have urged their release.