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Russian punk band Pussy Riot protest against ‘unlawful’ trial

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Julie Tomlin
WVoN co-editor

The three imprisoned members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot are again on hunger strike after denouncing their trial due to begin today as “unlawful”.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich were arrested after performing a masked guerrilla performance of a song attacking President Vladimir Putin and corruption within the Orthodox Church on the altar of Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral in February.  (see WVoN stories).

Two fellow band members are still on the run while other band members continue to perform in Moscow.

The three arrested have already staged a hunger strike after they were refused bail despite the fact that two have young children (see WVoN story).

The decision to stage a further hunger strike came after officials at Moscow’s Tagansky Court told them they had only until Monday to study the 2,800 pages of case documents ahead of their trial.

Tolokonnikova said she had only studied two of the seven volumes and was asking for the trial to be delayed until September to give her time to finish the remaining volumes.

“What I have studied proves there is no case against me. I need more time to study the materials, because my life depends on it,”she said. “I declare a hunger strike, because this is unlawful.”

Nikolai Polozov, a lawyer for Alekhina said: “The case is full of procedural violations and they are trying to speed up the hearing to ensure that we don’t have time to respond to them all.”

Polozov is quoted elsewhere saying of the court that “Basically their job now is to hold the trial as fast as possible, hand down a sentence and send them to a prison colony.”

The case of the Pussy Riot members who have been refused bail since their arrest, has attracted international support and more recently high profile Russians have joined calls for them to be freed.

Over 100 Russian cultural figures, including some known for pro-government views signed an open letter calling for the release of the three band members:

“We see no legal basis or practical reason for the further isolation of these young women, who do not pose any real danger to society,” the letter said.

One of the signatories Alexander Ivanov, a popular musician, said he was concerned that the women could face up to seven years in prison if found guilty.

“It scares me that, for a rather unsuccessful, but extreme, cultural experiment, they want to jail them for so many years,” he said. “Artists need to have freedom.”

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