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The Kommersant daily has learnt that the Presidium of the Moscow City Court has admitted to examination the lawyers’ appeal against the sentence to the members of the Pussy Riot punk band, sentenced to two years in prison. Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who supported the motion of the defence lawyers and who also demands that the convicts be acquitted, can significantly influence the progress of the appeal consideration. Lawyers say that in many cases the intervention of Mr. Lukin leads either to reversal or review of judgment.
The Moscow City Court had already commuted the sentence to one of the punk group members, Yekaterina Samutsevich, the newspaper notes. Now the defence lawyers of Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova seek overturning the sentence and full acquittal of all the convicted girls.
“The Court did not take into account the non-violent nature of the crime and the absence of material damage, and during the case consideration one procedural error was committed,” Pussy Riot members’ lawyer Irina Khrunova believes.
The fact that Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin has supported the appeal of the lawyers of the Pussy Riot members gives it weight. Lukin turned to court with an appeal, which is quoted by the newspaper: “The verdict did not give the assessment of the degree of disturbance of public order, as well as disruption of normal work of the Christ the Saviour Cathedral as a result of the defendants’ actions.” In fact, Lukin writes, the members of the punk band violated only the “internal rules of conduct in the cathedral building,” which cannot be regarded as gross violation of public order. Moreover, the ombudsman believes that the prosecution side failed to prove that the defendants were motivated by religious hatred, and therefore the sentence should be revoked as unjust.
According to the office of Vladimir Lukin, in 2011, the ombudsman received over 50 thousand complaints from citizens, however, the ombudsman not often decides to intervene.
“As a rule, the intervention of the ombudsman gives good chances for a successful outcome of appeal consideration,” head of the human rights organisation Agora Pavel Chikov said. In addition, the human rights activist explained, the fact that the Presidium of the Moscow City Court has decided to evoke the Pussy Riot criminal case in full, also shows that the sentence to the punk band members may be changed.
“In my experience, in 90 percent of cases such behaviour of the Moscow City Court meant that the judges indeed decided to get to the heart of the matter, and it all ended, if not with revoking of judgement, then with its significant correction,” he said.