August 2012, Week 2


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Wed, 8 Aug 2012 22:32:49 -0400
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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

Miriam Elder in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 August 2012 10.33 EDT

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

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.


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