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Pussy Riot seated in courtroom cage before making their last pleas

posted 8 Aug 2012, 05:34 by Mpelembe   [ updated 8 Aug 2012, 05:35 ]

Pussy Riot punk group members seated in the courtroom cage before making their last pleas in the trial over the protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin.


MOSCOW, RUSSIA (AUGUST 8, 2012) (REUTERS) - 
The trial wrapped up on Wednesday (August 8) for three members of Pussy Riot, whose "punk prayer" was performed in Russia's Christ the Saviour Cathedral has brought both international notoriety and the threat of a year-long prison sentence to its young members.
Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, who are now instantly recognisable for many Russians, arrived at a Moscow courthouse on Wednesday (August 8) to make their last statements to the court. Tolokonnikova, wearing a blue T-shirt with "No pasarán!", or "They shall not pass!" written on it, raised her fist in a defiant salute to journalists as she was led into the courthouse by a side door.


A state prosecutor on Tuesday (August 7) demanded a three-year jail term for the Pussy Riot women, saying they had abused God when they stormed the altar of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February wearing colourful dresses, balaclavas and tights and sang and danced in a protest against the Russian Orthodox Church's close links to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.


The case, in which the three are charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, has outraged many Russian Orthodox believers. But it has also caused an international outcry and focused attention on a crackdown on dissent since Putin returned to the presidency for a six-year term on May 7.


Amnesty International, Madonnna, Sting, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and other international artists have decried the trial and called on Russian authorities to drop the charges.


The three sat silently inside of the glass defendant's cage, ironically called 'the aquarium' as reporters and supporters tried to gain access to the small, packed courtroom.


Outside the courthouse, Pussy Riot's lawyer Nikolai Polozov said the fact the women were being tried at all was a crime itself.


"Any guilty verdict will be unlawful because we think that the actions of our defendants did not constitute a crime," Polozov said, adding "The case is political. If a guilty verdict is given, we will appeal against it anyway and demand the complete legal rehabilitation of our defendants."


Pussy Riot, an all-female group, formed last October in protest against Putin's domination of Russia and his plan, now fulfilled, to return to the Kremlin. He could also seek another six-year term as president when his current stint ends in 2018.


The band members see themselves as part of a protest movement that last winter organised the biggest demonstrations since the former KGB spy first rose to power in 2000, at times attracting crowds in Moscow of 100,000.


The verdict is scheduled to be read on August 17.

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