Three members of Pussy Riot, the band who performed a punk-rock anti-Putin song at the altar of Russia’s main cathedral, are to go on trial. A Moscow Court starts the hearing into the case that sparked waves of outrage and split the country.

­The trial from the Khamovnichesky Court in Moscow will be streamed live on the Internet.

Charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility,” three members of the feminist punk band, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Ekaterina Samutsevich, 29, may each face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

The song Pussy Riot performed in Christ the Savior Cathedral in central Moscow in late February criticized Putin and the alleged corruption within the Russian Orthodox Church. The song itself was styled to sound like an orthodox prayer to Virgin Mary, but extensively used profane language.

The controversial trial has sparked a heated debate in Russia and abroad, with many slamming the case as politically motivated.

Critics of the punk band accuse them of blasphemy and are calling for strict punishment as they say it was a deliberate attack on the religious feelings of Christian believers.

Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, called the performance “blasphemous” and an “attack” on both the Church itself and on Russia’s (Christian) national identity.

Tens of thousands of the faithful gathered in front of the cathedral on April 22 to show their support.

At the same time, there are those who say a lesser sentence – or even no sentence – would be more appropriate.

Thus, the head of Russia’s oldest human rights group has called on the authorities to free the girls and compensate them for the six months they have spent in pre-trial custody.

In June, more than 100 mainstream Russian actors and cultural figures signed an open letter calling for their release.

“The girls didn’t murder anyone, didn’t rob or use violence, didn’t damage or steal anyone’s property. Russia is a secular state, and no anti-clerical action can be reason for a criminal prosecution, unless it violates the criminal code,” the letter insisted.

Pussy Riot supporters have held numerous events in support of the girls in different cities across Russia and abroad.

In St. Petersburg, an artist has sewn his mouth shut and paraded through the city’s Kazansky Cathedral.

On July 20 the Moscow City Court rules that the group would remain in custody until January 2013.

The girls’ lawyers have called the case “a theater of the absurd” and “a show trial” dictated by officials who want to see the girls serve years in prison.

On the eve of the trial two members of Pussy Riot who also performed at the altar, but were not arrested, gave interviews to Western media.

“Putin is scared of us, can you imagine? Scared of girls,” a 20-year old girl who calls herself Squirrel told the Guardian. “It was just a prayer. A very special prayer,” added the other girl, 22-year- old Sparrow.

Putin himself once called the girls performance “disgusting”, but has never commented on the matter since.

 

 

 

 

Ref: www.rt.com