Posted: Aug 9, 2012 11:34 am
It's serious business over there..."hooliganism"...sheesh.
Pussy Riot trial: closing statement denounces Putin's 'totalitarian system'
Punk band's members claim they are freer than those carrying out their prosecution as judge sets 17 August for verdict
Three members of the feminist punk band Pussy Riot said Vladimir Putin's Russia was the one on trial as they delivered closing arguments on Wednesday in a case seen as a key test of the powerful president's desire to crackdown on dissent.
"This is a trial of the whole government system of Russia, which so likes to show its harshness toward the individual, its indifference to his honour and dignity," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, one of the trio on trial said in an impassioned statement. "If this political system throws itself against three girls ... it shows this political system is afraid of truth."
The judge set 17 August as the day she would deliver a verdict against the women, charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred following an anti-Putin performance in a Moscow cathedral.
Prosecutors have asked for a three-year sentence, arguing that the women sought to insult all of Russian Orthodoxy and denying they were carrying out a political protest.
Tolokonnikova called the charges against them a "political order for repression" and denounced Putin's "totalitarian-authoritarian system", insisting Pussy Riot were an example of "opposition art".
"Even though we are behind bars, we are freer than those people," she said, looking at the prosecution from inside the glass cage where she and her two bandmates, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, have spent the nine-day trial. "We can say what we want, while they can only say what political censorship allows.
"Maybe they think it wouldn't be wrong to try us for speaking against Putin and his system, but they can't say that because it's been forbidden," she said, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the revolutionary words "No Pasaran".
Couching their case in the long plight of political prisoners in the country, the three women urged Russians to reject Putin's system and embrace freedom.
Alyokhina, 24, compared the trial to the Soviet Union's persecution of Joseph Brodsky, when the young poet was charged with being a "social parasite", becoming a global cause celebre that highlighted the government's farcical control over culture.
"We are not guilty – the whole world is talking about it," Alyokhina said, hours after Madonna became the latest, and biggest, star to come to the women's defence.
"I am not scared of you," Alyokhina told the court. "I'm not scared of lies and fiction, or the badly formed deception that is the verdict of this so-called court. Because my words will live, thanks to openness.
"When thousands of people will read and watch this, this freedom will grow with every caring person who listens to us in this country."
Lawyers for Pussy Riot have been expecting a guilty verdict and three-year sentence, but said that was called into question following the judge's delay in issuing her decision. Lawyer Nikolai Polozov said growing international attention, including recent messages of support from the likes of Madonna and Yoko Ono, had had their effect. "To take a quick decision under such pressure is very dangerous for the authorities, so they've taken a time out," he told the Guardian. "No matter what the verdict is, we have won," he added.
Each woman ended her closing statement to loud applause from the Russian journalists sitting in the courtroom.
Miriam Elder in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 August 2012 10.33 EDT