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Russian Psychologists 'Appalled' By Expert Analysis In Pussy Riot Case

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left), Maria Alyokhina (center), and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit inside a glass enclosure during a court hearing in Moscow on August 8.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (left), Maria Alyokhina (center), and Yekaterina Samutsevich sit inside a glass enclosure during a court hearing in Moscow on August 8.

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By Maryana Torocheshnikova
MOSCOW -- For Russian prosecutors looking to justify a charge of "hooliganism … motivated by religious hatred or hostility" against the feminist punk performance-art group Pussy Riot, the third time was the charm.

In order to bring such an indictment, prosecutors needed an "expert analysis" to substantiate the motivation of "religious hatred or hostility." So prosecutors ordered one expert analysis, but came up empty. So they ordered another. Again, a bust. But the third one said what they needed it to say.

Now, three members of Pussy Riot await a verdict, expected August 17, from a Moscow court. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich could face up to seven years in prison for their brief performance in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Prosecutors have asked for a three-year sentence.

But about 100 Russian psychologists, linguists, and other academics have signed an open letter to the court lambasting the prosecution's expert analysis in the case. Noting the analysis's central role in the entire prosecution, the letter's authors say: "It has a deeply banal character with a certain amount of reference to old church expressions and dictionaries and cannot be considered psychological or psycholinguistic analysis at all."

"As professionals, we were appalled by this gross lack of professionalism," says psychologist Marina Yevgorova, the principal author of the letter. "We were puzzled by that expert psycholinguistic conclusion when it was first published on the Internet. It is a text that does not use any professional methodology."

'Loyal Experts'

Defense lawyer Anna Stavitskaya, who is not involved in the Pussy Riot case, tells RFE/RL that courts rarely, if ever, take into consideration alternative expert analyses provided by the defense.

The report has been criticized for evaluating material from the published video clip that uses the Pussy Riot performance in the cathedral (above), but also material that was not uttered in the church.
The report has been criticized for evaluating material from the published video clip that uses the Pussy Riot performance in the cathedral (above), but also material that was not uttered in the church.
"In our trials, similar expert conclusions were refuted almost completely by experts on the defense side," Stavitskaya says. "However, the court always rejected expert conclusions presented by the defense but trusted the prosecution's expert reports unconditionally."

She says Russian prosecutors regularly seek out "loyal experts" to provide such analyses. Stavitskaya said that in two cases in which she was involved, the same expert was summoned to provide her "expert analysis" of works of contemporary art -- even though she testified in court that she "can't stand" modern art and that her qualifications were in religious studies.

'Disgrace To Our Profession'

Psychologist Viktoria Yurkevich also signed the open letter, calling the prosecution's analysis "a disgrace."

"It is obvious that this piece of writing is primitive in its entirety," Yurkevich says. "We know that it could have been written in a more professional way. I'm not even bringing up what everybody else is talking about -- references to some 15th- or 16th-century [Christian] council, the Council of Trullo, and so on. The existing report is a disgrace to our profession."

She says she signed the letter out of a sense of professional pride.

"Our letter is a reaction to the report that humiliates, discredits, and belittles our profession," she says. "Psychology is not as primitive and unprofessional as it follows from this report. I am simply ashamed to see such an incompetent psychologist in the forefront of this."

Last month, two St. Petersburg-based experts with the Institute of History of the Russian Academy of Sciences and with the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Irina Levinskaya and Valentina Uzunova, also issued a harsh critique of the prosecution's expert analysis.

In particular, they criticize the report for evaluating material from the published video clip that uses the Pussy Riot performance in the Christ the Savior Cathedral, but which also adds material that was not uttered in the church. Some of the phrases from the video that were deemed particularly offensive to Orthodox Christians were not actually pronounced in the church.


RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson contributed to this report from Prague
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: PragueGuy from: Prague
August 14, 2012 15:44
Hey RFE/RL, this "Pussy-Riot" article is pure slanted "local-police-beat" news and not worthy of the sort of journalism you should be putting out to your consumers. This so-called story is nothing more than a simple criminal trespassing case with no real meaning.

At one time RFE/RL did REAL JOURNALISM that helped to change the world for the better. Now I am sad to say, RFE/RL is no better than a supermarket checkout aisle newspaper. There is much in the world that needs your attention. Take a deep breath RFE/RL and let your beloved "Pussy Riot" go...... Now try to work on a real story.
In Response

by: Jack from: US
August 14, 2012 17:39
Going on and on about Pussy Riot, you sir must be one of the Vagina Demagogues. Come off it, mate.
In Response

by: Victor from: USA
August 14, 2012 17:41
But they are not being charged just with trespassing, are they?
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 19, 2012 05:05
Wait a minute!
I commented couple times on this case, presuming,
based on articles and comments, that they did obsenity
to the chirch, while they were chanting anti-Putin lines.
Did they undressed as many comments presume?
Did they desecrate the holly place and objects?

As far as I see on the photo above, they performing
being rather badly dressed in almost empty chirch.
It wouldn't even elevate it to the level of huliganism -
Russians getting drunk and bamping into religious
Hollydays in much worse condidtion!

If it is all it is - it deserves no more than sleep night over
in police station and a medal for criticizing Putin
in the morning.

If they indeed undressed and desecrated the holly "place", in Muslim country they would be killed.
Even in fanatical christian countryside in some countries they
would end-up in a quite bad shape.
If it would be true, 2 years in prison is possibly an upper sentence for former ateistic country.
Why you using "pusy riot" and refering to female privet parts?
What did they actually do?

Much noise about nothing to cover-up suppression of freedom of speech?
In Response

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
August 14, 2012 20:00
Disagree 100%. Someone said the same thing not too long ago about a fruit vendor in Tunisia. This case is a litmus test as to Russia’s future direction, and believe it or not, the verdict could be the spark that ultimately topples this regime.

by: Anonymous
August 14, 2012 16:49
Don't like PR because they behave like mad people:
http://theendofbeing.com/2010/07/30/voina-vaginal-liberation-of-food/

but....

What Putin does is much, much worse.

by: Nancy from: Kula, HI
August 15, 2012 02:40
So, is there a text of the actual analysis? Did I miss it?

by: Mamuka
August 15, 2012 11:45
Hooliganism! Ah, that takes me back to the good old days.

In Response

by: Frank
August 16, 2012 01:12
Mamuka,

The PR freaks performed elsewhere without penalty. They didn't have permission to disrespect a venue with a history of having been oppressed by politically left of center wack jobs.

by: George from: USA
August 18, 2012 13:05
What can I say, approve or disapprove of these girls actions, has nothing to do with the soviet era show trial.
That is the real story here. The fat cats in the Russian government,(Putin being #1). can not stand any kind of criticism, and would most gladly kill or imprison any one that does not go with their program.
The rule of law by these primitive folk, would be rated much lower then any tribal justice handed out by the 13th century thinkers of Islam.
That is the point of these story's.
I would like to see all members of the Duma, prosecution office and about 90% of the police force on trial, a real one, but true justice would be served if they had to live through one of their own show trials..

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