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Court to rule on summons for Putin as witness in Pussy Riot case

July 23, 2012, 8:45 UTC+3

The media are still arguing how this offence should be taken in terms of legislation

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MOSCOW, July 23 (Itar-Tass) —— The Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow will continue the preliminary hearings into the criminal case against the punk group Pussy Riot on Monday.

At the previous court session judge Marina Syrova satisfied the request of the public prosecutor, extending the term in arrest for the defendants for another six months until January 12, 2013, press secretary of the court Darya Lyakh told reporters on Sunday.

Ten requests were made at the court session, including the requests to summon Russian President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill as witnesses in the court.

“Today the judge will rule on all the requests, including the summons for President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill in the court and will set the date for merit deliberations of the criminal case,” she said.

For their part, the lawyers of the defendants stated that the lawyers also requested to cross out from the case files the results of the latest psychological and linguistic expertise and to schedule a new expertise. The lawyers insist on the interrogation of more than ten witnesses, including protodeacon of the Russian Orthodox Church Father Andrei Kurayev, a famous artistic expert Andrei Yerofeyev, detectives Denis Ranchenkov and Mikhail Kharkov, several painters, experts and witnesses of the incident at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, including journalists.

This criminal case was highly publicized in the society. The defendants Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alekhina are charged under Article 213 Part 2 of the Russian Criminal Code for hooliganism out of religious hatred and strife.

The detectives found that the defendants jointly with unidentified persons (the criminal case against them was singled out in a separate case) engaged in “a preliminary conspiracy for hooliganism over the motives of religious hatred and strife towards some social group through provocative and insulting actions at the religious building, drawing attention of a broad range of believers.”

On February 21, 2012, they were staying at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, inflicting substantial damages to the holy values of the Christian religious service and encroaching on the sacred nature of the church sacrament, not reacting to the appeals of the church worker to stop blasphemy, penetrated illegally in the sacred fenced part of the church, which is intended for holy religious rites, so, defiling many centuries of the customs of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The punk group Pussy Riot assumed responsibility later for the incident. Pussy Riot became notorious over similar escapades, particularly at the Execution Place on the Red Square.

“Intending to inflict even deeper spiritual wounds to Orthodox Christians, they stepped on the Ambon before the iconostasis in the altar part of the church, where the priest usually reads the New Testament, chants church prayers and delivers sermons, the offenders took off the upper clothes and stayed in a very indecent shape for such holy place,” the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office reported on Sunday. “Meanwhile, they put on bright masks. Then Samutsevich began playing an electric guitar, and the Tolokonnikova switched on a phonogram record with the song prepared beforehand with the insulting and blasphemous content for the Orthodox Christians.”

The media are still arguing how this offence should be taken in terms of legislation: as an act of hooliganism, then it is a criminal offence with relevant sanctions, or as an administrative offence with lighter consequences.

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