MOSCOW - The two-year prison sentence handed down to punk rock band Pussy Riot for a provocative protest inside a Moscow cathedral called attention to just how hard President Vladimir Putin is clamping down on minor displays of dissent.
But Russia isn't the only country where people are punished for offenses that many in the West might consider trivial. People can spend years in prison for insulting the king in Thailand, slaughtering cattle without government permission in Cuba, selling land to Israelis in the West Bank and having gay sex in Ethiopia. In Britain, a man was jailed for stealing a bottle of water.
Blasphemy is considered a serious crime in much of the Muslim world, and a Christian girl in Pakistan has been arrested after neighbors accused her of burning pages of the Quran.
Here's a look around the world at crime and punishment:
• Singapore - Vandalism is punishable in Singapore by prison terms and three to eight strokes of the cane, delivered on the buttocks with a thick rattan stick that leaves lifelong scars. In 2010, Swiss national Oliver Fricker pleaded guilty to trespassing into a subway train depot and creating graffiti on a car. He got seven months in jail and three strokes of the cane. Singapore also is famous for the ban it imposed on chewing gum in 1992. Violations carry a fine of several hundred dollars, although no one has been convicted in recent years.
• Thailand - The nation has some of the harshest lèse-majesté laws in the world, mandating a jail term of three to five years for defaming, insulting or threatening the king. Among those who have run afoul of the law is Joe Gordon, a Thai-born American sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for translating a banned biography about the Thai king and posting it online. He was freed in July by a royal pardon. Amphon Tangnoppakul was not so fortunate. He died in prison in May at age 62, less than a year into a 20-year sentence for sending four defamatory text messages.
• Palestinian Authority - Since the Palestinian Authority was established two decades ago, 140 people have been charged with selling West Bank land to Israel, a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Palestinian officials said it was unknown how many of them were convicted.
• Saudi Arabia - Women can face arrest for driving and trying to travel abroad without the permission from their husband or male guardian. Unrelated men and woman risk arrest for mingling in private or public. One other rather unique rule in effect throughout much of the Gulf makes bouncing checks a criminal offense, punishable by jail time and/or deportation.
• Ethiopia - Homosexual acts carry severe penalties in many African countries, including in Ethiopia where those convicted of gay sex can face 10 years in prison.
• Britain - And then there is Nicolas Robinson, who drew a six-month jail sentence for stealing a water bottle from a London supermarket during the public disorder that swept the country last summer. Even tougher sentences were handed down to Jordan Blackshaw and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan for trying to organize riots on Facebook; both received four years in jail despite the fact that no one showed up, aside from police. Judges said the sentences were necessary in the context of the violent unrest.