Russian court postpones appeal case of rock band
A Russian court yesterday postponed the appeal of three members of jailed rock band Pussy Riot until next Wednesday after one of the trio axed her legal team.
The three performers were sentenced in August to two years in prison for hooliganism for performing a “punk prayer” against President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s main cathedral.
Band member Yekaterina Samutsevich announced at the opening of the hearing that she has fired her three lawyers over an unspecified disagreement. Samutsevich said she found another lawyer but had failed to sign a contract.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Samutsevich, 30, were arrested in March after dancing and high-kicking at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral as they pleaded with the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Putin, who was elected to a third presidential term two weeks later.
They said at their August trial that they were protesting the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Putin and didn’t intend to offend religious believers.
The Church said on Sunday that the rockers would deserve mercy if they repent for their stunt. The move followed a statement by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who said that keeping them jailed any longer would be “unproductive”.
The calls reflected an apparent desire by both the government and the church to put an end to the case.
The girls’ imprisonment has come to symbolise intolerance of dissent in Putin’s Russia and caused a strong international condemnation. Their cause has been taken up by celebrities and musicians, including Madonna and Paul McCartney, and protests have been held around the world.
Even some government loyalists criticised the harsh sentence, voicing concern about the church’s interference in secular affairs and a growing repressive streak in the Kremlin’s policies.