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Russian Feminist Punk Group Denies Committing Crime

  • RFE/RL

The three members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot who are on trial in Moscow have pleaded to the court that they have not broken any laws.

The three could each receive seven years in prison if convicted of hooliganism for disrupting a service in February at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow.

Their performance in the church -- which they called a "punk prayer" -- called for the end of President Vladimir Putin's rule.

As the trial opened on July 30, the defendants' lawyer Violetta Volkova read to the court a statement from 22-year-old defendant Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

"I am prepared to admit that we committed an ethical mistake. It was precisely a mistake because we had no conscious intention of insulting anybody," Tolokonnikova's statement read.

"And our ethical mistake -- I stress, an ethical mistake, but not an offense punished by the Criminal Code -- was that we permitted ourselves to react to the patriarch's call, which made us upset, for people to vote for the politician Vladimir Putin."

Tolokonnikova's statement also expressed "regret" if the group's performance had offended anyone.

"If our passion indeed appeared insulting to the witnesses of our punk concert, we regret it very much. We had no intention to insult anyone," Volkova read. "We want those who cannot understand us to forgive us."

Questioning The Church

Volkova also read statements from the other two members of the punk band. In addition to Tolokonnikova, they include Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29,

Alyokhina said the group's performance at the cathedral lasted only 40 seconds. She asked whom the Orthodox Church considered to be its "children."

"I thought the church loved its children," her statement said. "But it turns out there is a distinction here: the church only loves those children who believe in Putin."

In her statement, defendant Samutsevich said the trio had already been punished for disrupting the church service because they have been detained since March.

The lawyer asked the court to subpoena the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church as a witness in the case.

Volkova said as head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill can answer questions on behalf of Orthodox believers and clarify canonical matters concerning the band's performance in a church.

Coverage in Russian by RFE/RL's Russian Service

The case has sparked debate in Russia and elsewhere about the limits of free speech and the Putin government's commitment to civil liberties.

Amnesty International says the women are being unfairly prosecuted and has named them "prisoners of conscience," jailed for their political views.

Musicians such as Sting, Faith No More, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have also voiced support for the group.

On July 20, the judge extended the detention of the three women for six more months.

PHOTO GALLERY: Scenes inside and outside the courtroom


With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax
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