MOSCOW, August 2 - 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."
21:24 And that's all for today. The trial will continue tomorrow at 11:30 Moscow time - tune in for more live coverage!
21:18 The judge notes that none of the participants are showing much interest in the proceedings: Alyokhina is reading a newspaper, the lawyers are playing with their phones, the prosecutors are paging through their case files.
21:09 The judge is reading the investigative materials aloud, certifying that Tolokonnikova is not enrolled in a psychiatric or neurological clinic, that she has not stood trial before in her life. Tolokonnikova’s biographical information sheet from Moscow State University's philosophy faculty is fairly uninformative. It contains evaluations, information about her maternity life, and her voluntary departure from school. It was noted that while studying, she didn't have any conflicts with students or professors, but the Interior Ministry did request information about her twice. Maria Alyokhina's university characterized her as a diligent, creative student. Samutsevich's protocols are now being read aloud. According to the document, when arrested she had on dirty jeans and dirty shoes, didn't have a trace of cosmetics on her face, and her hair was not dyed.
20:47 "I stand in support of the girls because I don't think they committed a criminal offense. In general, this whole trial is illegal," attorney Yury Schmidt told RAPSI in connection with his signature under the open letter. (see 20:06)
20:37 The break is over. Less than 20 people remain in the courtroom: the defendants' families and friends and, of course, some journalists.
20:15 A ten-minute break has been announced. Bailiffs are warning that those who leave the courthouse won't be allowed back in.
20:06 Just today a statement in support of Pussy Riot girls was issued by a group of prominent Russian lawyers: Genrikh Padva, Yury Schmidt, and Tatyana Nozhkina among them. "Bringing criminal charges against these women is contrary to Russian law and is clearly legally erroneous," the statement reads.
19:56 Volkova is asking the court to exclude the examination from the body of evidence and to allow another set of experts to reexamine the psychological and linguistic aspects of the punk prayer. In her opinion, it was inappropriate for the panel of experts to include a doctor of law and a child psychologist, neither of which are experts in the material at hand.
19:42 Defense lawyer Violetta Volkova is reading an endless document that criticizes the experts' findings that the punk prayer was directed against the Orthodox church. Besides, she refers to the opinion of a priest, who is saying that the punk prayer cannot have been directed against believers. "While its method and form were unusual for Russia, generally speaking it was a prayer," he said. Besides, as it turns out, part of the examination that the judge did not read out in its entirety said that "certain elements of feminism contradict Christianity."
19:21 The judge has read out the results of psychological and linguistic examination of the Pussy Riot performance. The experts administering the examination found that the actions taken by the girls were not symbolic of a desire to incite animosity or hatred toward any given group of people. The same experts found no evidence of hostility toward Orthodox Christianity in Pussy Riot's punk prayer. In the lyrics of the song - which are available on the group's website - they, however, detected signs of hostility toward clergymen and heretics. These experts have diagnosed all three of the Pussy Riot girls with personality disorders. Still, the experts maintain that the girls are sane - noting that they should be held responsible for their decisions, and that they do not require psychological treatment.
18:58 The judge is still reading documents. Now it's a detailed description of the dresses Pussy Riot members wore during their performance in the Cathedral, which was attached to the criminal case file. There is some additional evidence of laptops and other personal belongings of the accused.
18:47 The judge is reading out the detailed code of conduct for both laypeople and clergy members.
18:39 The judge has failed to read important procedural documents despite the insistence of the lawyers.
18:28 Meanwhile, a group of Hare Krishnas in saffron robes have gathered near the court. They are chanting and playing tamborines. A few Pussy Riot supporters have joined in as well.
18:19 The judge is reading out the text description of the punk prayer video.The defense team rebuffed the text description of the performance, saying that it was inaccurate and asking to watch the video immediately. The defense team was again reminded that this is the prosecution's turn to examine the evidence.
18:16 The judge is currently reading through documentary evidence. It's not nearly as interesting as the witness testimony was.
17:59 The judge read out condolences expressed by the Russian Council of Muftis to the Christ the Savior Cathedral. They refererred to the punk prayer as an "orgy." The letter further emphasized the imperative of preventing a loss of spiritual values.
17:54 According to a memo on behavior acceptable in Christ the Savior Cathedral, the following are prohibited: photography, videorecording, short dresses, exposed skin, and dancing.
17:42 The judge continues to read out a list of documents. She has cited a message posted on Pussy Riot's website stating that the girls - being feminists - were determined to perform a punk prayer at the altar because women are forbidden from entering it.
17:27 The judge has reprimanded Pussy Riot’s defense team for not having reviewed all the materials on the case. [There are 8 volumes and 2,500 pages].
17:13 Pussy Riot defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov says that another witness has arrived, but was refused admission into the courtroom. Polozov was reprimanded for going outside to meet him.
17:05 The judge has refused to grant a motion for the examination of defense witnesses, Navalny among them.
16:47 Matilda Ivashchenko has been found. She refuses to testify, or to explain the reason for this refusal. According to the prosecutor, Ivashchenko is feeling unwell.
16:26 The hearing resumed, but Matilda Ivashchenko who was expected to be called to testify goes missing once again. The hearing has been adjourned for a short break. Feigin told RAPSI that Navalny will testify on Pussy Riot's behalf.
15:58 The missing witness has been found (see 14:16). Matilda Ivashchenko studied with Maria Alyokhina at the Institute of Journalism and Literary Writing. She is expected to speak in court today. Incidentally, Islamic theosophist Heydar Jemal is here as well. He plans to speak about how other religious groups might have reacted to Pussy Riot's punk prayer.
15:39 Prominent Russian novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya is now present in the courtroom. Rumor has it whistleblower Alexei Navalny and opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov may be on their way here as well.
15:17 The hearing has been adjourned for a 30 minutes break.
15:13 The elder Samutsevich even said that his daughter had become a zombie. He is now asking the court not to believe the testimony given to the prosecutor. According to him, it has no legal force because he believed it had been an informal conversation, not an interrogation. He has stated his intention to file a claim in connection with defamatory publications against his daughter.
15:09 After she and Tolokonnikova became friends, Samutsevich allegedly closed herself off from her father, and was no longer open to discussing her interests with him. He told the investigator, "I learned of Pussy Riot's existence - and of my daughter's participation in it - by way of the mass media and the Internet." However, Samutsevich told her father that she did not participate in the incident at Christ the Savior Cathedral.
14:56 As it turns out, an investigator previously interrogated the elder Samutsevich. The prosecutor requested permission to read the testimony produced during the interrogation aloud. Apparently therein lie the answers to all of the questions he refused to answer in court, based on his right not to testify against his daughter. The defense objected. As usual, the judge sided with the prosecution. It follows from the interrogatory testimony that according to the elder Samutsevich, Tolokonnikova sucked his daughter into the so-called feminist movement. "I denounce the very idea of feminism in Russia, because Russian culture is entirely different from that of the West. More of our women work- often in high-ranking positions."
14:54 According to the elder Samutsevich, his daughter was not involved in any social organizations, and he only heard of Pussy Riot for the first time after the incident in Christ the Savior Cathedral, and after his daughter's arrest.
14:47 According to Yekaterina Samutsevich's father, while she had planned to take part in a Pussy Riot performance, she was arrested prior to actually performing. She had allegedly entered the church, but was detained before reaching the altar. He told this to investigators. He added that his claim could be corroborated by the church's security camera footage. According to Sautsevich, his daughter was primarily arrested for her refusal to cooperate with investigators. "Traditions of buffoonery are permitted in the church," he resopnded to a question the prosecutor asked about the Pussy Riot punk prayer.
14:44 Regarding his attitude toward the proceedings, the witness Samutsevich holds that what is happening now is entirely disproportionate with what happened in the cathedral. In his opinion, the church and the government are inspiring a breakdown in society.
14:42 Samutsevich's father is explaining that his daughter has been baptized and that the family observes religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas. He adds that she attended church.
14:16 The next witness to be questioned disappeared – bailiffs failed to find her. Yekaterina Samutsevich’s father was called instead. He declined to answer a few questions concerning his daughter, who is a Pussy Riot member. The judge asked, actually, if Yekaterina Samutsevich has ever been treated in the neuropsychiatric or drug rehabilitation center. Otherwise, the judge was not interested in his own religious commitment.
13:58 The question arised why women’s head should be veiled with a kerchief in the church and why masks are forbidden. It took time to find that out. Zhukova looked bewildered and told that’s a general rule.
13:47 The Pussy Riot defense lawyers are going to ask the judge to call a witness on their side. There was none yesterday.
13:34 The first witness for today - Yelena Zhukova, cleaning lady of Bogoyavlenskiy Cathedral, has taken the stand. According to Zhukova, she was insulted with what she saw. [The Pussy Riot band performed another punk prayer at Bogoyavlenskiy Cathedral a few days prior to the incident at Christ the Savior Cathedral].
13:27 There are three witnesses to be questioned in court today. Others are expected to testify tomorrow. There are 10 witnesses in all in the list of the prosecution. Two of them - Oleg Ugrik and Eteri Gonashvili, the treasurer of Bogoyavlenskiy Cathedral, testified yesterday.
13:14 Once again, presiding judge Syrova has refused to satisfy the claim for her recusal.
12:58 The Pussy Riot girls are inside the courtroom. They told journalists that they were not evacuated from the court.
12:41 The court has been very carefully inspected. A huge crowd attempts to get into the courtroom. It may last for as long as an hour. So far only the aggrieved parties have made it through the line. The lawyers are still being frisked.
12:23 No information on the bomb discovery has yet been confirmed. All those who wish to do so may reenter the courthouse at this point. The hearing is expected to resume shortly.
12:08 Ambulance and police car drove up to the court.
You may read our updates right from the Moscow's Khamovichesky District Court in Russian here.
11:56 Two fire engines have arrived at the court building.
11:44 According to the court's press secretary, the building is being inspected by police officers and k-9 units. She was unable to report where the Pussy Riot girls are currently being held, or whether they were removed from the courthouse.
11:43 The bailiffs and police have cordoned off the court building. They have confirmed that the evacuation was caused by a bomb threat. Defense attorney Mark Feigin said that, "[THE COURT] received an anonymous phone call claiming that explosives had been planted in the courthouse."
11:33 One of the lawyers reports that the court has received a bomb threat.
11:32 Everyone has been evacuated from the court building. The cause is still unknown.
11:29 The judge has retired to her chambers in order to deliberate the fourth recusal request. She did not find sufficient cause to grant any of the prior three requests for her recusal.
11:26 Taratukhin, in his turn, rebuffed Pussy Riot’s complaints and sided with the judge. According to him it’s inappropriate, unlawful and, finally, unjust to speculate about the objectiveness of the proceedings and the judge’s proficiency. He advised the defense lawyers to mind their business. He reiterated that the lawyers speak too much to the mass media and are late for the hearings as a result. Besides, in his view the defense lawyers are poorly prepared for the proceedings judging from their questions to witnesses.
11:15 Pussy Riot defense attorney Mark Feigin brought renewed attention to yesterday's assertion that judge Syrova has conferred privately with Alexei Taratukhin, attorney for the aggrieved parties. Feigin intends to submit a complaint connected with the incident to law enforcement authorities. He suggested - for the sake of clarification on the matter - that those interested might look at the surveillance footage from the Khamovnichesky Court's security cameras.
11:04 Defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov supported Alyokhina and appealed to the judge's dignity. He said that the judge should be above all of this.
10:54 Additionally, Alyokhina is drawing renewed attention to the judge's refusal to provide the defense with sufficient time for trial preparation. In her view, this has all been indicative of judicial bias. Alyokhina is complaining of having suffered humiliating and degrading treatment.
10:46 Maria Alyokhina submitted another request for the judge's recusal. In her view, presiding judge Marina Syrova has committed flagrant violations. Specifically, she has refused to consider motions filed by the defendents in contradiction to the law. Yesterday, both the defense and the aggrieved parties demanded the judge's recusal.
10:39 The bailiffs warned those present that they would be removed from the courtroom immediately for any bouts of laughter or conversation. The proceedings have finally started.
10:33 The Pussy Riot girls have arrived. Today they have a different accompanying security convoy. Whereas yesterday they were guarded by a rottweiler, today they're being guarded by a sheepdog.
10:21 One of the lawyers, a prosecutor, the aggrieved parties, and the judge are already in the courtroom. The Pussy Riot girls have not yet arrived.
10:12 Today, for the first time since the start of the trial, a Pussy Riot supporter was arrested, allegedly for having insulted a police officer.
10:03 Prior to the start of this morning's proceedings, the usual crowd is surrounding the courtroom. Today a number of foreign journalists have joined their Russian counterparts. Amidst the flow of English speech, several Russian words keep popping up. Among them: "автозак" (paddy wagon), "позор" (shame), "священник" (priest) and for some reason, "РАПСИ/RAPSI" (your's truly).
09:51 Good morning all! Today at Moscow's Khamovichesky District Court will be the fourth 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.