Putin protestors: Judge is biased

The feminist Russian punk band on trial for protesting against Vladimir Putin have accused their judge of being politically biased and ignoring their side of the story.

The Pussy Riot members also said they did not mean to hurt anyone’s religious feelings when they performed a “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral against Mr Putin’s return to the Russian presidency.

“We’ve been made scapegoats,” said band member Maria Alekhina.

But the Judge refused to listen to any of the motions of the defence, and the daily 12-hour court sessions on hooliganism charges continued.

The three women – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23; Alekhina, 24; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 – have been in custody for five months following their stunt. The band members, who are facing a seven-year sentence if convicted, have previously complained that they have been deprived of sleep and food.

Pussy Riot performed its act in February as a protest against Mr Putin’s return to the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for him. Their case is part of a widening government crackdown on dissent that followed Mr Putin’s election in March and caused strong protests in Russia and abroad.

The trial that started in July has sharply divided Russia. Some believers felt insulted by the act, while top rights groups have declared the women prisoners of conscience.

Tolokonnikova, dressed in a checkered shirt tucked in skinny jeans, told the court that Judge Marina Syrova’s actions are turning the defendants into “dumb creatures.”

“I’m just a body that gets shuttled to the courtroom every day and stays here from 10 to 10,” she said in a trembling voice. “My motions don’t even get heard.”

The band’s defence lawyers filed yet another petition to remove the judge that was turned down.

Alekhina accused the judge of bias. “Your honour ignores defendants as equal parties of the trial,” she read out from her notes. “Your honour is politically biased. Your honour does not respect the defendants.”

Orthodox leaders have ignored calls by many Orthodox believers to pardon the women and urge the court to dismiss the case.

The three women are facing daily court hearings for some 12 hours – unusually long for Russian courts.

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