Paul McCartney sends support to Russian punks

FILE In this Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012 file photo feminist punk group Pussy Riot members, from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit in a glass cage at a court room in Moscow, Russia. Three members of Pussy Riot were jailed in March and charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after their punk performance against President Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral. Theyare awaiting the verdict on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, file)

LONDON - Paul McCartney has sent support to a Russian punk band whose members face prison for a stunt against President Vladimir Putin.

In a letter released Thursday, the former Beatle urged three members of all-female band Pussy Riot to "stay strong" and called on authorities to allow them freedom of speech.

McCartney said that "I and many others like me who believe in free speech will do everything in our power to support you and the idea of artistic freedom."

The band members have been in jail for more than five months because of an anti-Putin prank in Moscow's main cathedral, and face a maximum seven years in jail.

Celebrities including Madonna and Bjork have called for them to be freed.

A judge is due to rule on their case Friday.