A glance at trial of feminist anti-Putin rockers
From left, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot sit behind bars at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Russia, Monday, July 30, 2012.Three members of the band are facing trial for performing a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin from a pulpit of Moscow's main cathedral before Russia's presidential election in March, in which he won a third term. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
MOSCOW (AP) — Three Russian feminist rockers rejected charges of hooliganism for performing a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main cathedral against Vladimir Putin's return as president as a trial against them opened in earnest on Monday. The charges could carry a punishment of up to seven years in prison.
The three members of the Pussy Riot band — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 — have been in custody for five months since their February stunt. Their prosecution has caused a sharp public divide and drawn protests from rights groups who have declared them prisoners of conscience.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, a member of feminist punk group Pussy Riot is escorted to a court room in Moscow, Russia, Monday, July 30, 2012. Three members of the band are facing trial for performing a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin from a pulpit of Moscow's main cathedral before Russia's presidential election in March, in which he won a third term. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
The trial began July 20 but the first sessions were devoted to procedural issues. On Monday, with the court turning to the substance of the case, Tolokonnikova and other defendants said in statements read by their lawyer that their goal was to express their resentment over Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill's support for Putin's rule.
They pleaded not guilty to the official charges of hooliganism driven by "religious hatred." Tolokonnikova said she felt sorry if some of the believers felt insulted by their act, but that they didn't mean to offend anyone. It wasn't clear how long the trial might last, but a court has recently ruled that the women should be kept in custody for another half-year. Two other participants in the performance haven't been identified and remain at large.