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The trial began over the Pussy Riot criminal case

July 31, 2012, 12:08 UTC+3

Last February they performed the song “The Mother of God, Make Putin Go” at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral

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MOSCOW, July 31 (Itar-Tass) — On Monday, the Khamovnichesky District Court of Moscow held the first court session in the criminal case against members of the feministic punk band Pussy Riot, who are accused of hooliganism. Last February they performed the song “The Mother of God, Make Putin Go” at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The feministic activists, who did not plead guilty in hooliganism, asked for apologies from the believers, who were insulted by their escapade. The experts believe that after this event the Russian Orthodox Church could have come out in defence of the activists, but the Moscow Patriarchate is not ready for this yet. The media are discussing the consequences of this disgraceful story for the church and the society.

The Pussy Riot members did not plead guilty in hooliganism, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily reported. But they gave apologises to the believers. Defendant Nadezhda Tolokonnikova acknowledged that the so-called punk prayer “The Mother of God, Make Putin Go” “is our ethical guilt, but there was no crime in it.” Maria Alekhina noted that she did not understand the sense of accusations at all. All of them noted that they committed a protest action for political motives and did not feel any religious hatred and strife at all in their lifetime.

“This is a political affair, and the court fulfils the political order. But this is harmful for the justice,” head of the Moscow public supervisory committee and human rights activist Valery Borshchev told the newspaper. The expert noted that the law enforcers and judges put themselves in a trap, “They wanted to show toughness and punish the young woman at maximum, but what we witness now is just cynicism, disrespect to the law and the public opinion. There is no corpus delicti in the actions of the young women. All participants in the trial understand this.”

The latest high-profile trial, which concerned the relations between the art activists and the Russian Orthodox Church, was held in 2010, the Kommersant daily recalled. Then the Tagansky District Court found curators of the exhibition “Banned Art” Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov guilty of instigating religious strife and fined them. However, this time the public response turned out to be much stronger. The Pussy Riot criminal case provoked the debates over the relations between the church, the state authorities and the society.

Patriarch Kirill avoided public assessments of the protest action at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral all this time, stating that he will be ready to give comments only after the trial. Protodeacon Andrei Kurayev noted that the trial in the Pussy Riot criminal case put the church in a deadlock. “Alas, it turned out that most citizens believe that the feminists are being kept at the detention centre at the initiative of the church. No matter what verdict is, it will be regretful for the relations between the church and the society. If they are convicted, all people will blame the church for bloodthirsty intentions, and if they are acquitted all people will say that the court is more humane than the church,” he told the Kommersant daily. Meanwhile, Father Andrei said that no officials from the Moscow Patriarchate “raised the issue of forgiveness and mercy at all.” “It is necessary to release them, and then begin public debates over loopholes in the legislation. Moreover, young women apologised today that they began speaking the language of the church, and the church hierarchs could have responded to this,” the protodeacon believes.

The conflict over the arrested ‘installationists’ has emerged and was dragged for a so long period of time in order to make each citizen of our country to side with someone, the Izvestia daily reported. In one way or another, mixing political, moral and legal aspects, Russian citizens should have branded someone fiercely and have protected someone in the same zealous way, accept some arguments and deny some others. As a matter of fact, they should have struggled strongly in the social networks. Therefore, it was impossible to side with someone, the author of the comments believes.

When you see prominent representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church seeking to justify in public the incomprehensible cruelty of the judicial authorities to the members of the group of “blasphemers”, you feel a pity to the arrested women and the clergymen, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily said in the comments. Probably, it is very hard to be in this absurd position, when they have to preach inquisition instead of compassion. The sympathies are getting stronger, when you see other clergymen writing with despair in their blogs that the church is losing the support of intelligent, scrupulous Christians in the age brackets between 16 and 60 years every day.

You are following this distressful story lingering for many months, from which all people got sick and tired already psychologically, more and more doubts are raised that at the example of frivolous young women someone wants to teach a lesson or punish someone, including the Russian Orthodox Church. Why does the church need all this scandal? the newspaper contemplates. The whole leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate turned out in a tricky position of “Orthodox inquisitors”, as well as the patriarch, no matter how vaguely and unclearly he is speaking about this blasphemous case at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The clerical media people are completely at odds, moreover with public scandals.

If the legal aspect of the trial, this is a many-month investigation of the obvious fact of petty hooliganism, is absolutely convincing, the PR campaign is excessive and diversified. Representatives of the Russian underground already crucified themselves, stitched up their mouths, went on a hunger strike and locked themselves up in the cage in support of Pussy Riot. Moreover, Western music stars used the issue of the persecuted punk band many times to invigorate their guest performances in Russia. The latest event of the kind was Sting’s letter. The rivals of the young women are also seeking to diversify their actions, but they are more frequently boiled down to mere critical remarks. It turns out that a spectacular media aspect of this criminal story prevails over legal and common sense.

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