Pussy Riot appeal hearing: LIVE UPDATES

Members of the all-girl punk band "Pussy Riot" (from L)  Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova sitting in a glass-walled cage in Moscow, on October 10, 2012. (AFP Photo / Natalia Kolesnikova)
The appeal hearing for the three jailed members of punk rock activist group Pussy Riot has resumed Wednesday after being postponed last week. The trial was delayed after one of the women requested new counsel.

The hearing was delayed when Yekaterina Samutsevich requested a new lawyer. The Russian Orthodox Church said that the women should be pardoned if they repent their actions, which the defense lawyers vowed they would not do.

­10:46 GMT: The court has overturned the sentence of Ekaterina Samotsevich after her independent counsel successfully argued on appeal that she was interrupted before she was able to participate in the demonstration. The court upheld the verdict for the other two defendants, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Court has been dismissed.

­10:26 GMT: RT’s Lida Vasilevskaya reports that the situation is calm outside the court house, as the majority of the morning’s protestors seem to have returned home.

­09:55 GMT: The court has announced a recess until 14:30 to consider the arguments.

09:53 GMT: The general prosecutor is arguing that the sentence is fair and just, and that it should be upheld.

09:40 GMT: Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that the defense had ample opportunity up until the present day to provide their own experts, and that complaints about the expert testimony are therefore “silly” and an attempt to prolong the process.

09:25 GMT: Lawyers for the plaintiffs have argued that several religious organizations, including Jewish and Buddhist ones, endorsed Putin’s candidacy for President; the defendants would have no more right to offend those groups’ religious beliefs than those of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Therefore, they argue, the sentence should be upheld.

09:09 GMT: Lawyers for the plaintiffs have rejected Samutsevich’s argument that she should be granted a reprieve of her sentence since she was unable to participate in the protest, arguing that her admission that she intended to carry out the action speaks for itself.

09:00 GMT: The lawyers for the plaintiffs argue that while the defense lawyers have claimed that the Pussy Riot members picked a time when there were no services in order not to offend the faithful, this choice could be interpreted differently; knowing the church’s schedule and laws, they picked a time when they were most likely to succeed.

08:55 GMT: The lawyers for the plaintiffs are arguing that no new information was heard today that could reverse the court’s decision; that the defendants went to the church to perform an act that would clearly be offensive, and that there is no reason to reject this obvious fact.

08:44 GMT: Samutsevich’s attorney is emphasizing the fact that she never took part in the ‘punk prayer,’ and that she was only on the pulpit for 15 seconds and was unable to perform any of the acts of which the defendants were accused.

08:35 GMT: Defense lawyer Mark Feygin has concluded his additions to the case, asking for the sentence be dropped and making dramatic charges that the judges colluded with the prosecution to predetermine the trial’s outcome.

08:18 GMT: Defense lawyer Violetta Volkova claims that her clients’ guilt has not been proven, saying that the defendants did not perform their ‘punk prayer’ on the altar of the church (where women are forbidden) and that they chose a time when services were not being held, which confirms the women had no desire to offend religious beliefs and therefore they cannot be guilty of religious hatred.

08:13 GMT: Lida Vasilevskaya wrote on RT’s Twitter account that several individuals have been detained outside the court house after protesting in support of Pussy Riot.

08:06 GMT: Tolokolnnikova is reading her statement, claiming that Pussy Riot has no connection whatsoever to religious institutions. The judges have asked the defendants to limit their remarks to complaints about the judicial process.

08:05 GMT: Alyokhina is also asking that the defendants not be confused with those who recently defaced churches and stole icons, saying that they also condemn those acts. She says they condemn all acts of vandalism, and they are in jail now only for their political beliefs.

08:00 GMT: Maria Alyokhina is reading her additional statement. She declares that the rights of all three women were infringed due to the selection of individuals not competent to stand as expert witnesses. She added that the defendants were not allowed to prepare their own questions for the expert witnesses. “Over the course of the last three months, I have lost all faith in the courts,” she says. She claims that the protest was not intended to offend any religious beliefs, but was an expression of discontent for Russia’s political and religious elite. She claims that their apologies to the faithful have been honest, and that it is a tragedy they are being ignored.

07:57 GMT: Samutsevich claims that she requested a new attorney since the women’s lawyers are currently defending the entire group, and therefore could not effectively highlight aspects of the case that are important to her; namely that she did not participate in the protest in the church before she was arrested.

07:55 GMT: Yekaterina Samutsevich is reading her statement. She declares that while she did intend to perform a political act when she entered the church on February 21, she had no intention of offending any religious beliefs. She claims that similar acts of protest against the current president of the Russian Federation will continue.

07:45 GMT: Eastern Orthodox Church activists have organized a prayer in front of a chapel erected on the territory of the Moscow courthouse where the trial is being held, Interfax news agency reports. 

(Image from twitter user@sovkusomsahara)
(Image from twitter user@sovkusomsahara)

07:36 GMT: The court has rejected the defense’s call for new expert testimony.

07:28 GMT: Volkova recounted to the court how the experts called were all deeply religious, and argued that they therefore could not be objective. The court has rejected the defense lawyers’ request to question the expert witnesses. The plaintiff’s lawyers are calling Volkova’s statements unfounded, saying that the defense does not have the right to call new experts simply because the previous testimony does not suit them.

07:25 GMT: Defense lawyer Violetta Volkova is stating the appeal case on the grounds that multiple infractions occurred due to the improper selection of expert witnesses during the trial.

07:16 GMT: The lawyers for the plaintiffs have declared their opinion that the appeals hearing is merely an attempt to delay judgment on a ruling the court has already made.

07:10 GMT: Yekaterina Samutsevich was introduced, with her new counsel announced and entered into the record.

07:07 GMT: The judge has entered the courtroom, and is repeating the details of the case for the record.

06:45 GMT: The Pussy Riot band members have arrived at the courthouse.