Preliminary hearings in the case against members of the Pussy Riot punk rock group, accused of hooliganism at the Christ the Savior Cathedral continue on Monday. The defense demands a second expert examination and the summoning of witnesses, including Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and President Vladimir Putin, while some German officials have made statements in support of the accused girls.
Preliminary hearings are held behind closed doors. Pussy Riot’s lawyer Violetta Volkova told RBC Daily that several motions of the defense will be considered on Monday: the lawyers demand to withdraw some materials from the case, present witnesses, ask to fix a new psychological-linguistic expertise as well as to return the case to the prosecutor’s office or at least to give more time for looking into it. The hearings began on Friday, and the girls’ term in custody was extended for another half-a-year. The Khamovniki district court, where the case is considered was barred with metal bars, and several police buses arrived there.
There were fewer protesters than during the recent sessions on the arrest of girls from Pussy Riot, no more than 200 people. At the same time there were a lot more protesters carrying posters “For Morals” and “Protect Our Children”, the Novye Izvestia writes. One could learn about what was going on in the court hall from Twitter reports of Pussy Riot lawyers, but soon after the hearings began, the judge demanded to stop the “on-line broadcasting”, according to Nikolai Polozov. Readers of the micro blog only had time to learn that lawyer Mark Feigin had asked to summon in court witnesses Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Gundyayev (Patriatch Kirill), and that the chancery had turned down the motions of Violetta Volkova.
Meanwhile, the lawyer of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mark Feigin, explained to the newspaper that “six months in custody during the investigation is envisaged by Article 255 of the Criminal Procedure Code, this is a standard practice”. However, according to him, the court simply did not trouble to look into the case objectively, otherwise the girls’ measure of restraint would be changed to home arrest, personal guarantee or recognizance not to leave.
“Putting in prison for no matter what kind of words – is a barbarous act of Dark Ages,” the Vedomosti cites professor Konstantin Sonin, pro-rector of Russian Economic School. According to him, five months in custody is already a huge damage. “The damage to the state authorities comparable with the damage from the “Sinyavsky-Daniel Case” 50 years ago. The damage to the society, as the country is stricken off from the list of civilized countries before its eyes,” Sonin said.
The court trial has caused international stir, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta notes. The London Times devoted to it a double-page spread ahead of the first session on Friday, maintaining that persecutions have turned Pussy Riot from a marginal irritator into an international cultural phenomenon. Leading editions of Germany covered the court session in detail, while some representatives of that country’s establishment spoke in favor of the arrested. The statement of German ombudsman Markus L·ning said he was shocked by a “draconian” decision extending the girls’ term in custody.