Russian Prosecutors Seek 3-Year Sentence for Anti-Putin 'Pussy Riot'

World | August 7, 2012, Tuesday // 18:12|  views

The three members of the girls' punk group Pussy Riot that are charged with hooliganism over anti-Putin acts are seen in court. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Russian prosecution has asked for three years in jail for three Pussy Riot members over a punk prayer in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral calling for then-Prime Minister and current President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to resign.

The three young women - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samusevich, all aged between 20 and 30 - have been charged with hooliganism under a statute carrying a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

The Russian prosecutor said on Tuesday the defendants' actions fell under the definition of "hooliganism," i.e., a gross disturbance of public order by a group of persons acting in collusion, RIA Novosti reported.

He rejected Pussy Riot's assertion that it was a "political act" as according to eyewitness reports, the defendants made no reference to any politicians during their punk prayer.

The prosecutor said, however, that they mentioned the Russian president's name in their song only to claim that it was a political act.

The act was "sinful in the eyes of society," he continued, adding that the Christ the Savior Cathedral is "a symbol of faith for citizens."

Two of the "victims," whose names were not disclosed, asked through their lawyer that the Pussy Riot members be given suspended sentences, since two of them had small children.

Pussy Riot's defense counsel Nikolai Polozov said that any verdict besides not guilty would be unlawful.

Another defense lawyer, Violetta Volkova, said she will complain to the European Court of Human Rights over the violation of the defendants' rights during the trial.

Court hearings have lasted for more than 10 hours a day, she said, as a result of which the defendants were deprived of normal sleep, were not provided with hot meals or any meals at all.

They were also denied an opportunity to meet with their lawyers in private. The court rejected all complaints and barred witnesses for the defense, members of the public and the media from testifying. Volkova said all of that amounted to "torture and inhumane treatment."

The Pussy Riot members told the court they were not guilty and hoped they would be released.

Tolokonnikova said that evidence against the group was falsified while "victims" had come under pressure from the investigation.

Alyokhina said the investigator threatened her with two to four years in jail unless she "cooperated." The court adjourned until Wednesday.

Testifying in Moscow's Khamovniki Court on Monday, Samutsevich said the punk band was formed to draw public attention to criticism of the ruling authorities in Russia and all three of them had no intention of offending Orthodox believers.

The three Pussy Riot members were detained after five masked women performed a song in Moscow's landmark Christ the Savior Cathedral in late February, speaking out against what they said was church support for Vladimir Putin's presidential election campaign.

The song, entitled "Holy S**t," featured the lyrics "Virgin Mary, drive Putin out!" and was performed at a time of unprecedented protests against the 12-year-long rule of the former KGB officer. The suspects admit being part of the Pussy Riot group and partaking in the performance, but say their motives were purely political. Putin called the protest "unpleasant."

The trial of Pussy Riot members has raised international concern with many famous western rockers voicing support for the girls and asking for their release. In the most recent appeal, former Sex Pistols vocalist John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, dedicated his whole performance to Pussy Riot during the festival of punk bands, Rebellious, in Britain's Blackpool.

Amnesty International has recognized the three group members held in custody as prisoners of conscience.

The three women have been in jail since their arrests a few weeks after the performance took place on February 21.

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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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