Russian President Putin Urges Leniency for 'Pussy Riot'

World | August 3, 2012, Friday // 11:46|  views

Members of punk-group Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Yekaterina Samutsevich (C) and Maria Aliokhina (R) sit in a defendant cage awaiting beginning of a next session of the trial at Khamovnichesky district court in Moscow, Russia, 03 August 2012. E

President Vladimir Putin spoke out against "judging too harshly" three Pussy Riot band members facing hooliganism charges for a February performance at a Moscow cathedral denouncing President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill.

Meanwhile, Moscow's Khamovnichesky District Court began studying evidence in the case, video recordings of the band's performances at Christ the Savior and two other churches, The Moscow Times reported.

"There is nothing good in it. ... Nevertheless, I don't think that they should be judged too harshly," Putin told journalists in London late Thursday, answering a question about the band's performance.

"I hope that they [the defendants] will make some conclusions themselves, although the final decision must be delivered by the court," Putin said, RIA-Novosti reported.

"I hope that the court will make a correct decision that is justified," he added.

Defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov called Putin's comments a "crucial turn" in the case, Interfax reported.

The trial entered a fifth day at the Khamovnichesky court Friday morning.

"The court will begin to study the evidence," Judge Marina Syrova announced in a calm voice.

"Shove culture up your ass, we are going to the prosecutors!" she unexpectedly shouted out after a small pause. She smiled as she finished reading.

The judge was reading from an A4 sheet, which contained extracts of the band's performances, including "Fuck the state!" "Police don't let us live," and others promising to revenge police and containing obscenities and offensive remarks about priests and prosecutors.

After reading to the end of the list, Syrova presented other evidence: a yellow dress, two hats with holes for the eyes and mouth and two CDs.

When the evidence was put on display, the defendants and some journalists laughed, which made the prosecutor ask the judge to evict those who laughed for a second time.

One young female journalist barely smiled before a court marshal took her by the arm, hastily escorted her to the door and pushed her outside.

The judge and the prosecutor played video recordings of the band's performances for the defendants on a laptop computer, but shielded the screen from journalists.

The Russian girls' punk group is on trial after five masked members of Pussy Riot performed a protest song entitled "Holy Sh*t" at Christ the Savior Cathedral's altar in downtown Moscow on February 21. The lyrics included lines such as "Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!"

Pussy Riot said the performance was a response to Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill's backing of President-elect Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his landslide March 4 election victory. The patriarch called the 12 years of Putin's rule a "miracle of God" in a televised meeting.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were detained in early and mid-March. All the three women admit being part of the Pussy Riot collective, but deny taking part in the cathedral performance. Both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have small children.

Amnesty International recognized the suspects of prisoners of conscience earlier this month, and a number of public and Orthodox Church figures have called for their release.

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Tags: Vladimir Putin, Russia, Moscow, Russian President, Patriarch Kirill, Dmitry Medvedev, Pussy Riot, Russian Orthodox Church, Christ the Saviour Cathedral


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