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Russian Court Delays Pussy Riot Defendants' Appeal

  • RFE/RL

Pussy Riot defendants Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left to right) sit in the dock during their appeal hearing in Moscow on October 1.

Pussy Riot defendants Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left to right) sit in the dock during their appeal hearing in Moscow on October 1.

A Russian court has opened and then adjourned for more than a week the appeal hearing for three members of the punk collective Pussy Riot.

The hearing came amid a heavy security presence at the Moscow city court, with dozens of supporters gathered outside to show solidarity with the group.

Presiding judge Larisa Polyakova ordered the adjournment after one of the defendants said she had fired her lawyers.

"The judges have decided to postpone the hearing until October 10, at 11:00 in the same courtroom," Polyakova said. "[Defendant Yekaterina] Samutsevich is to hire a new attorney, as prescribed by the law. The new attorney must familiarize himself with the case before the next hearing in order to assume defense responsibilities."

Prosecutors said the move was a delaying tactic.

PHOTO GALLERY: Pussy Riot appeal delayed


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alekhina, 24, and 30-year-old Samutsevich were arrested in March after dancing and singing at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral as they pleaded with the Virgin Mary to save Russia from Vladimir Putin.

Putin was subsequently elected to a third presidential term.

In August, the women were convicted on charges of hooliganism and inciting religious hatred, and sentenced to two years in prison.

Urged To Repent

The three performers said during their trial in August that they were protesting the Russian Orthodox Church's backing Putin and did not intend to offend religious believers.

On September 30, the Russian Orthodox Church urged the three women to repent, suggesting it could help them win leniency from the court.

In a statement, the church said that if the women make statements showing "repentance and regret," their words "shouldn't be left unnoticed."

The women's sentencing sparked an international outcry and has polarized Russia, pitting Putin's staunchest critics against his considerable and well-connected supporters.

The powerful pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi's "commissar," Konstantin Goloskokov, recently announced a 50,000-ruble (about $18,000) bounty for information on the whereabouts of other Pussy Riot members and said Nashi was collecting money through the Internet to increase that "prize fund."

The European Parliament has nominated the jailed Pussy Riot members for a prestigious human rights prize named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, sparking criticism from Moscow.


Based on reporting by AP, RFE/RL, and dpa
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