Pussy Riot Fires Lawyers, Hearing Postponed

John Hudson
Pussy Riot Fires Lawyers, Hearing Postponed

Just when everyone thought the tribulations of Pussy Riot were coming to an end, the all-female punk collective slings a curveball. On Monday, the appeal by the jailed band members was postponed after bandmate Yekaterina Samutsevich surprised the prosecution and fired her three lawyers over an "unspecified disagreement," the Associated Press reports. Strangely, Samutsevich's other bandmates Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, expressed support for Samutsevich's decision but decided to retain the representation of the three lawyers. Justifying her decision, The New York Times reports that Samutsevich told the panel of three judges that “My position in the criminal case does not coincide with their position,” referring to her lawyers. The appeal was adjourned until October 10. 

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Some expected today's court date to yield the release of the three band members in light of Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's comments last month that the group had served enough time. Medvedev said further imprisonment of the group, convicted in August of "hooliganism driven by religious hatred" for performing an anti-Putin "punk prayer" in a cathedral, would be "unproductive." But now it's unclear whether Pussy Riot is trying to eke out a little more publicity before the show's over or something more sinister is afoot.

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If you ask the prosecution, Samustevich's decision is a tactic to delay the proceedings, reports Russian news agency RIA Novosti, though it's not immediately clear why they would want to delay the proceedings. (In an interview published in GQ last week, which was only possible because their lawyers smuggled their answers past guards, the bandmates said conditions were dreadful in prison. "Right now we're in hell here.") Others speculate that it's a calculated PR ploy. "It is possible that because attention to the case has weakened somewhat, they are using such events to draw that attention once again and make this issue into a subject of active discussion," Olga Mefodyeva, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, told the AP. Regardless, the band is clearly not softening its tone ahead of the appeal. After the Russian Orthodox Church said Sunday the group should be forgiven if they repent, Pussy Riot lawyers said the group refuses to admit to any wrongdoing.