MOSCOW, August 3 - RAPSI. RAPSI is hosting live text coverage of the heavily anticipated Pussy Riot trial as it progresses.
The hooliganism trial of three members of Russian punk rock collective Pussy Riot began Monday in a Moscow court in a case that has attracted heated controversy worldwide.
Group members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich remained in pretrial detention since their early March arrest for an incident that some have lauded as a valid exercise of free speech, and that others have lambasted as blasphemous. Group members face up to seven years in prison.
On February 21, five girls wearing brightly colored balaclavas stormed the altar of downtown Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral to perform an anti-Putin protest song entitled, “Holy Sh*t.”
Prosecutors have maintained that the Pussy Riot members "inflicted substantial damage to the sacred values of the Christian ministry…infringed upon the sacramental mystery of the Church… [and] humiliated in a blasphemous way the age-old foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church."
21:51 That's all for tonight's broadcast - the hearing will continue Monday morning at 10:00 am Moscow time (GMT +4). We hope you'll tune in!
21:37 All of the sudden, Volkova asked the judge whether or not she's Orthodox. The judge refused to answer. Volkova then went on to question whether the judge would be able to render an impartial judgement if, in fact, she is Orthodox.
21:20 According to Volkova, the problem is that experts examined edited video footage of the Pussy Riot performance instead of the performance itself, thus for another time challenging credibility of their findings. Experts were merely shown a movie, and now the real actors of that film are standing trial, she said.
21:09 Volkova is still arguing with the judge. Now she's irritated that the judge is drawing some kind of picture. In response, the judge quipped that maybe Volkova should stop paying attention to what the judge is doing at her own desk.
20:58 Violetta Volkova was annoyed not long ago because the judge was not looking at her at all. The judge is finally paying attention to her, but Volkova is dissatisfied once again. This time the judge's smiling too mischievously.
20:44 Alyokhina plans to apply for a witness to be called. The girls would like to call witnesses who can shed light on the relationship between punk rock culture, feminism, and Orthodoxy. They intend to call witnesses who can offer testimony on how it can be concluded that their punk prayer was intended to convey hatred toward Orthodox believers.
20:28 Violetta Volkova is speaking about the political element of the proceedings and about the punk prayer which can't be seen as indicative of a hatred toward Orthodoxy. "These are not hooligans, these are political prisoners," she said.
20:20 Defense attorney Nikolai Polozov requested that the attorney for the aggrieved parties keep quiet while he's speaking. He was reprimanded for that comment because the judge is the only one with the right to order anyone to keep quiet.
19:59 The defense team is desperately asking permission to call another witness. Most of their past attempts at such have been rejected.
19:44 After the break, a long line formed in front of the courtroom entrance, due largely to the fact that the bailiffs were trying to separate the journalists from the Pussy Riot supporters.
19:43 During the break defense lawyer Violetta Volkova asked the judge once again to remove the guard dog from the courtroom due to her pet hair allergies. When the judge - once again - refused, Volkova shot back that this refusal constituted inhumane treatment.
19:36 A five-minute break was announced.
19:35 Journalists with proper IDs are the only non-interested parties currently allowed in the courtroom.
19:34 Yaroslav Nikitenko, one of the creators of a website launched to support Pussy Riot, has been beaten up by bailiffs. His mobile phone has been smashed as well. The incident occurred when Nikitenko tried to get into the courtroom. The bailiffs had refused to let him enter due to the fact that the working day is over.
19:09 "If together we all take command of the court, the bailiffs, and the dogs (see 13:26) - we will create a mad house," lawyer for the aggrieved parties Larisa Pavolova interjected. She urged all of the parties to act civilized, and not "like a bunch of chefs that took over the parliament."
18:57 The prosecution is once again criticizing the defense team. According to the prosecutor, the defense attorneys have been ignoring not only the law, but proper standards of cultural behavior as well. The prosecutor claimed that the defense team's behavior was for "cheap PR."
18:42 Defense lawyer Violetta Volkova accused the judge of violating the code of professional ethics, the criminal procedure code, and all legal standards. "I am begging you to be wise enough and to - finally - recuse yourself."
18:36 Based on her refusal to let them call additional experts to the stand, the defense team is once again calling for the judge's recusal.
18:28 The prosecution opposes calling of new experts, claiming that doing so will only delay the proceedings.
17:54 A Moscow State University philosophy professor that was expected to testify on Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s behalf has gone missing. The defense team has filed a motion to call additional experts.
17:29 Olga Vinogradova, Alyokhina's former classmate, is next to testify. According to her, Alyokhina is an extremely communicative person, vegetarian, who doesn’t drink any alcohol. According to her, Alyokhina is an extremely communicative person, vegetarian, who doesn’t drink any strong beverages. She was engaged in a voluntary service movement at the Danilovsky monastery, looking after psychologically ill children, Vinogradova added.
17:24 Alexei Shulgin, a professor from photography school where Samutsevich studied, has been called to the stand. Shulgin answered a few questions, and was left wondering why there were so few. The judge said that she understood quite well that Samutsevich was an intelligent girl. The prosecution kept silent and asked no questions at all.
17:23 The judge has agreed to call only three of the defense witnesses to the stand: two of the girls' former teachers, and one of Alyokhina's former classmate. The judge has refused to call any of the others to testify, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny and novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya.
17:09 The aggrieved parties, on the other hand, are not opposed to allowing some of the defense witnesses to take stand. Their attorney Larisa Pavlova even hinted that a photojournalist included in the list may have been an accomplice to the punk prayer, so it might be particularly interesting to call him to stand.
16:59 The prosecution sees no point in allowing all of the defense witnesses to be questioned, maintaining that the court won't get any useful information from them.
16:53 One of the defense lawyers expressed hope that allowing all of the defense witnesses to take the stand would provide these proceedings with at least a minimal level of competition.
16:42 The defense lawyers have returned to the courtroom. The judge promised them that she will consider their request to call all of the witnesses on their list. In addition to Navalny, the defense list of witnesses includes scientists, theologians, journalists, and prominent novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya.
16:36 Defense attorney Nikolai Polozov insists that Navalny be allowed to enter the courthouse. The defense team refuses to continue participating in the hearing until the judge has ordered that the defense witnesses be granted admission into the court. Violetta Volkova has left the courtroom.
16:27 Alexei Navalny has shown up at the courthouse, in accordance with the defense team's request that he testify on Pussy Riot's behalf. According to defense attorney Mark Feigin, the judge has ordered to prohibit Navalny to enter the court.
16:12 The hearing has been adjourned for five minutes.
16:03 Bezhena meanwhile says that Alyokhina was a poet and that she was involved in environmental programs and that she didn't have any bad habits. She is a good-natured, kind person, according to Bezhena. She wanted to read some reviews of Alyokhina's poetry, but the judge objected, saying that they're not actually in a poetry slam. The defense lawyer reminded the judge that they are not in the inquisition court neither.
15:56 Three masked men have climbed onto the building across the street from the courthouse. They have lit torches and they're chanting "Free Pussy Riot." The police have not yet been able to stop them. One of them is trying to persuade the others to get down off the roof, but they're refusing.
15:47 The judge has forbidden questioning the witness about the Christ the Savior Cathedral punk prayer.
15:34 "[Alyokhina] is a decent person. She has many friends. Regarding religion, I do not communicate with students on this topic. It is a purely personal issue," Bezhena said.
15:32 The witness has taken the stand. Natalia Bezhena is the vice rector of the Institute of Journalism and Literary Writing, where Alyokhina studied for three years. When the judge learned that the witness had not brought her professional ID card with her, she wanted to refuse to allow her to be questioned. But she then recalled that the witness had been warned of the penalties for perjuring herself in court.
15:26 Meanwhile, the Pussy Riot supporters are raging outside. Their calls to release the girls can be heard from outside.
15:24 Defense lawyer Violetta Volkova stated, "Your honor, the bailiffs have confessed to us that you personally prohibited the defense witnesses from entering the court."
15:22 Chaos erupts. The lawyers and the judge are squabbling loudly over the barking Rottweilier, who couldn't resist getting involved. A two-minute break has been announced.
15:20 The defense team is calling its witnesses. Natalia Bezhena, vice president of the university where Alyokhina studied, takes the stand. She is to tell the court about Alyokhina's personal characteristics. The judge agreed and sent a bailiff to bring the witness to the stand. When the defense lawyer mentioned that she was actually outside in front of the courthouse, the judge quickly changed her mind and refused to allow Bezhena to take the stand, based allegedly on security concerns. As it turns out, the bailiffs have removed all of the defense witnesses from the court.
15:17 The Pussy Riot girls still refuse to take the stand.
15:15 The prosecution has finished presenting its case against the Pussy Riot girls. Now the defense team wants to put its witnesses on the stand.
15:09 The Pussy Riot girls intentionally violated the prohibition on inflicting pain upon Orthodox devotees, according to Ryazantsev. He compared Pussy Riot with the Godless Union, whose members in early 20th century made a mockery of the Orthodox Church.
15:04 Defense attorney Mark Feigin criticized the prosecution. In his opinion, it has been wasting time despite the fact that more than a dozen witnesses have been waiting patiently to take the stand. The judge ignored the lawyer's remarks and began reading Ryanzantsev's testimony aloud. According to Ryazantsev, it is forbidden to interfere with prayer and communion with God in the cathedral. Thus, it is forbidden to enter the church in bright, flamboyant clothing, to storm the altar, to take photographs, or to be too loud. It is especially wrong to leap and jump around, shouting blasphemous slogans. According to Ryazantsev, these rules are funadmental to every person's internal moral code.
14:57 The defense lawyers, however, object against testimony reading. They insist on Ryazantsev's appearance in person.
14:47 The hearing has resumed. The prosecution side has been reprimanded for being late. Mikhail Ryazantsev, Christ the Savior Cathedral ecclesiarch, has been summoned to the court, but he is unable to attend. Thus the prosecution has requested permission to read out the testimony that he delivered during investigation. According to a certified statement, Ryazantaev is unable to attend the hearing because he's outside of Moscow on a business trip and his return date has yet to be determined.
14:33 The hearing to resume soon.
14:26 The girls have returned to the courtroom, and the camera crews have been allowed back in as well. Some defense witnesses have arrived, but they're not being allowed into the courthouse.
14:09 Famed activist Alexei Navalny is expected to testify on behalf of Pussy Riot today. He is allegedly going to tell the judge that the Pussy Riot’s performance was a political protest rather than an anti-Christian act. However he has not showed up yet. Pussy Riot girls’ friends and Islamic theosophist Heydar Jemal have come.
You may read our updates right from the Moscow's Khamovichesky District Court in Russian here.
13:56 A small group of supporters have set up camp near the courthouse. It is decorated with Pushkin's death mask wearing a balaklava. People are reading, chatting, and one girl is embroidering on the lawn.
13:53 Judge Syrova is in good spirits today. Although she had initially only called a 10-minute break, the Pussy Riot girls said they were hungry, so she increased the break in order to let them eat. When the girls said the same thing on the second day of hearings, she waited another four hours before calling a break.
13:26 By the fifth day of trial, even the guard dogs are getting stressed. The rottweiler tried to attack the Pussy Riot girls, and could barely be restrained.
13:25 All of the video footage has been viewed. The hearing has been adjourned for a 30-minute lunch break.
13:23 The judge has reprimanded Pussy Riot girls for not paying sufficient attention to the video footage. They replied that they simply can't see anything - the laptop's too small and far away.
13:19 The prosecutor and one of the attorneys for the aggrieved parties are closely examining the footage on the laptop. The others have all returned to their seats.
13:06 Yet another violator has been removed from the courtroom for having started playing a video on her laptop. The audio was loud - a plot line about someone having committed a crime and then having been forced to abandon his dreams
12:51 The spectators are getting bored. None of the video footage can be seen from the spectator seats. The bailiffs are keeping a close eye on maintaining order. They're ready to remove any perpetrator from the courtroom immediately. The courtroom is quiet. All that can be heard is some “holy sh*t” profanity streaming from the laptop speakers.
12:41 The judge watched several videos. In order to see the laptop screen, the judge crowded around the table with the attorneys, prosecutors, and representatives of the aggrieved parties. By the way, fewer and fewer of the aggrieved parties have been showing up at court each passing day. On the first day of the trial, nine of them were here. Yesterday there were only two, and today only one.
12:33 Video footage of Pussy Riot performance at Christ the Savior Cathdral is being shown on the laptop. It's unclear why the TV was brought in. Courtroom spectators are having a tough time seeing anything. It's mostly just a lot of noise - shouting and calls for freedom.
12:26 A little earlier, one of the journalists was removed from the courtroom for laughing. She resisted - claiming that she hadn't been laughing - but to no avail. She appealed to the judge, also without success. Shortly thereafter, however, she managed to return to the courtroom.
12:21 A short technical break was announced.
12:17 The judge is preparing to watch video footage contained on discs that were confiscated from the Pussy Riot girls. She plans to do so using a laptop, which is placed on a table in the court. Some technical problem occured. In the meantime, the bailiffs have brought a TV into the courtroom.
12:06 As it turns out, the box contains the outfits the girls wore while performing in the cathedral. The prosecutor, wearing white gloves and a disgusted facial expression, pulled out of the box and held up a yellow dress and two dark blue masks. Several courtroom spectators were unable to stifle their laughter.
12:01 The hearing is starting. There is a large box in the courtroom, the contents of which are yet unknown.
11:49 Journalists are now being let into the courtroom. The court press secretary is trying to fit all of them into the courtroom, but there are not enough seats.
11:38 The Pussy Riot girls have already arrived in the court, and film crews're being let in as well. As expected, the last of the documentary evidence will be read out at the start of the trial, and then the defense team will be given the floor.
11:31 Today the defense will have its day in court. Likely as a result of this, there are a ton of journalists here today.
11:26 As usual, the street surrounding Khamovichesky District Court is cordoned off, the cordons are reinforced by police units, and Pussy Riot supporters are crowded outside of the courthouse. Today photographers and video cameras will be allowed in the courtroom. As a result, the hearing is expected to be delayed. Recording equipment has been prohibited for the past three days, media coverage of Pussy Riot trial on the whole was restricted by court.
11:17 Good morning all! Today at Moscow's Khamovichesky District Court will be the fifth day of hearings on the merits, and we invite you to keep track of the day’s events via our text updates, which will cover everything that happens in the court. Today’s text will be administered as usual by Anna Shubina, Ingrid Burke and Alexander Karpov.