Pussy Riot punk band to remain in custody
MOSCOW, April 20 - RAPSI. Tagansky District Court of Moscow ruled on Thursday that three members of the all-female punk group Pussy Riot must remain in custody until at least June 24 for their part in an anti-Putin protest at Moscow's largest cathedral.
All three of the accused face up to seven years on hooliganism charges. A date for their trial has yet to be set as investigators continue their probe.
"This is a mockery of a case and it should be closed immediately,” Nikolai Polozov, the accused's attorney, told the journalists earlier in the day.
Some 300 people had gathered in front of the court to demand freedom for the suspects, who were detained in early and mid-March. Police made a number of arrests, detaining some 30 demonstrators wearing t-shirts in support of the group.
Prosecutors had asked the court to prolong custody to "ensure the safety" of the accused. A lawyer for the group said in March that death threats had been made against the suspects and their children.
The ruling comes ahead of an April 22 “defense of the faith” nationwide prayer called by the Orthodox Church to protect it from attacks by “"anti-Russian forces.”
Five masked members of Pussy Riot performed a protest song entitled “Holy Sh*t” at the altar of the Christ the Savior Cathedral in downtown Moscow on February 21. The lyrics included lines such as “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, chase Putin out!”
Pussy Riot said the performance was a response to Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill’s backing of President-elect Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his landslide March 4 election victory. The patriarch called the 12 years of Putin's rule a "miracle of God" in a televised meeting.
Putin's press secretary said the president-elect reacted “negatively” when told of Pussy Riot’s protest.
Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were detained in early and mid-March. All the suspects admit being part of the Pussy Riot collective, but deny taking part in the cathedral performance. Both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have small children.
Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police.