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MOSCOW, August 7 (Itar-Tass) — Moscow’s Khamovnichesky court on Tuesday will begin hearings of the sides’ arguments in the criminal case against members of the Pussy Riot punk group, charged with hooliganism in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The prosecutor is expected to take the floor first. He will request the court to impose on the group members fair, in the view of the prosecution, punishment.
The injured persons and their lawyers, as well as the defence lawyers will make the final speech. Then the defendants will make their last statements, after which the judge will retire into the deliberations room for sentencing.
The court meeting will begin at 12:00 MSK and will be broadcast online.
It took the court six day to consider the case on the merits. On Monday, members of the Pussy Riot group were questioned. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina admitted their participation in the scandalous “punk prayer service,” but said that they had no relation to the creation of the video and spreading it on the Internet. They claimed that this very action was aimed at criticising the government and church, and not offending the faithful.
The court also again dismissed the defence appeal on summoning some witnesses, including experts. In addition, the Judge Syrova found no grounds for the exclusion from the case materials of the last expert examination and the appointment of a new one.
On February 21, five young women in masks and bright clothes turned up at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, stepped on the ambo, then approached the altar and performed an uncensored song for several minutes through the sound amplifiers, particularly they were crying out insulting words to the clergymen and believers. To the remarks of the church workers and visitors they did not react and escaped in an attempt of the church security guards to detain them.
The punk band Pussy Riot later assumed responsibility for the escapade. Pussy Riot became notorious over similar protest actions, particularly at the Execution Place on Red Square. Three of the alleged participants in the “punk prayer” - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich - were arrested. They were charged under Article 213, Part 2 of the RF Criminal Code - “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and hostility against any group of citizens,” providing for punishment of up to seven years in prison.
This criminal case became highly publicised in the society, raising the debates how this offence should be taken in terms of legislation: as an act of hooliganism and then this is a criminal offence with relevant sanctions or as an administrative offence with more lenient consequences.