Pussy Riot trial: What does it say about Russia?
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Whatever the eventual verdict in the trial of the punk band Pussy Riot, they have served a great purpose in highlighting the ongoing corruption of the Russian judiciary and President Putin. Three members of the band were arrested in February after playing their ‘punk prayer’, Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out at an Orthodox Church in Moscow. They were charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and have been held in prison for six months, with all their requests for bail denied. The trio could face up to seven years in jail if convicted. One of Pussy Riot’s members who has not been detained, nicknamed Terminator, claims the church protest was “definitely not an anti-religious act” but a “political performance” against Putin’s campaign for the presidential elections in March. Their show was intended as a protest, but the most powerful man in Eastern Europe is not very receptive to criticism. Notorious for his hard line on dissent, Putin has been accused of exerting influence over both the Orthodox Church and the courts to ensure the band is punished for their opposition. Natalia Antonova, deputy editor of The Moscow News, says: “The courts are there to blindly, brutally enforce the social hierarchy... not to get to the bottom of controversial criminal cases.” Few would reasonably believe Putin’s statement that the courts should be merciful towards Pussy Riot. Leniency would make Putin seem weak, and he knows it. Pussy Riot’s supporters have no doubts about Putin’s motives and the fairness of the trial. “It’s personally Putin and his closest assistants basically leading this case”, says Pyotr Verzilov, husband of Nadia Tolokonnikova, one of the jailed members.
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