Pussy Riot punk band remains defiant of Putin's Russia

The punk rock band "Pussy Riot" remains a voice of dissent in Russia, even though some of its members are in prison or in hiding

Lesley Stahl: Here you girls are, you're clearly really intelligent and you put on these crude, almost juvenile acts.

Katya Samutsevichl: This is the language we've chosen, the language of punk. It's not highly intellectual. It's intentionally lowered, dumbed-down. We've chosen this specific kind of language to attract attention.

The Kremlin didn't pay much attention until the church performance, because that went viral. Katya, Nadia and another girl, Maria Alyokhina were arrested, and they quickly became a cause celebre.

South Park, Amnesty International, Madonna pled for their release. Their supporters, like chessmaster Garry Kasparov who's been arrested many times for protesting against Putin, thought the case was trumped up.

Lesley Stahl: A lot of people I know who you would respect think that to be obscene in a church on the altar was a step too far.

Garry Kasparov: It was not a blasphemy. They asked Virgin Mary to kick out the dictator. I believe it was an act of civil courage. And they were exercising their rights.

Lesley Stahl: But the words were offensive. They cussed.

Garry Kasparov: The words were offensive for Putin and for patriarch, and I believe they both deserved it.

But what exactly was the crime the band committed? Sergei Markov, an academic who serves as a political spokesman for Putin, says authorities had trouble coming up with one.

Lesley Stahl: What exact law did they break? You know, some people say all they did was sing a song. They didn't even sing it. They lip-synced it.

Sergei Markov: On this issue, that's right. It's the problem with-- to find the law. Finally, the court found the law.

What they found was the charge of "hooliganism motivated by religious hate" because the girls were disrespectful to the church and Markov says if they had not been given a substantial sentence believers would have rioted.

Lesley Stahl: Did the authorities intervene and say, "Give them a harsh penalty, much harsher than they deserve because of a fear of violence?"

Sergei Markov: Absolutely.

Lesley Stahl: But is that right? Do you think that's right to stretch the law?

Sergei Markov: It's duty of authorities to stop the violence.

Lesley Stahl: But there hadn't been any violence. You're predicting--

Sergei Markov: No, no. It's a very clear prediction.

In their trial the girls were defiant, Nadia pumping her fist as she was led into court. If Putin gave them a stage, they were going to use it.

Lesley Stahl: Did you ever consider begging for forgiveness, throwing yourself at the mercy of the court?

Katya Samutsevichl: No. The whole process was so unfair to us from the beginning. It's strange when you're innocent. Are you supposed to ask for forgiveness from the judge who's ready to put you away for several years? No, this wasn't even discussed.

Lesley Stahl: Were you in the courtroom?

Pyotr Verzilov: Yes.

Lesley Stahl: All the time?

Pyotr Verzilov: Basically every day.

Pyotr Verzilov, Nadia's husband and fellow political activist, saw his wife and the other two on display, in a cage, an eerie echo of a Soviet show trial. When the verdict came, it was a jolt: two years in prison.

Pyotr Verzilov: For me, it was obviously shock.