Connect to share and comment

'Pussy Riot' punk rockers to remain behind bars

Three members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot are to remain in jail until June, when a court will decide whether they will each be imprisoned for seven years for mocking President Vladimir Putin in a flash protest inside Russia’s main Orthodox church.

Pussy riot 2012 04 19Enlarge
Yekaterina Samutsevich waves as she arrives for the court hearing in Moscow. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Three female members of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot who mocked President Vladimir Putin in a flash protest inside Russia’s main Orthodox church are to remain behind bars until June, following a decision by a Moscow court to extend their pretrial detention.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich are to remain in detention until June 24, a district court judge ruled Thursday, after police petitioned to keep the women in prison while an investigation continues, the Associated Press reports.

Investigator Artyom Ranchenkov said in televised remarks that Pussy Riot’s stunt “in a holy place was illegal and utterly cynical.”

Around 100 people, both supporters and Russian Orthodox supporters of the women, gathered outside the court during the custody hearing on Thursday, and at least 20 protesters were detained, according to the BBC.

More from GlobalPost: "Pussy Riot" Russian feminists arrested for punk rock show at Cathedral

Members of Pussy Riot – clad in miniskirts and bright tights with their faces concealed by balaclavas – stormed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February and performed an expletive-laden “punk prayer,” chanting “Holy Mother, send Putin packing!”

They later released a video of the stunt, which was executed just two weeks before Putin defied a wave of massive anti-regime protests to win a third presidential term.

Three band members were taken into custody in March, and each face seven years in prison if convicted on charges of hooliganism. According to the Guardian, Pussy Riot is comprised of 10 full-time members who organize guerrilla shows in Moscow. At least two of the three women detained deny being in the group or being involved in the protest.

More from GlobalPost: Amnesty calls on Russia to release feminist punk band Pussy Riot

Western human rights groups have criticized the Russian authorities’ handling of the affair, which has renewed concerns over the close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and the state.

In a statement on its website, Amnesty International said: "Even if the three arrested women did take part in the protest, the severity of Russian authorities’ response - detention on the serious criminal charge of hooliganism - would not be a justifiable response to the peaceful (if, to many, offensive) expression of their political beliefs, and they would therefore be prisoners of conscience."

Tolokonnikova, speaking from inside a metal cage before the court extended her detention, said the stunt “was a performance directed against a merge of state and church,” while Alyokhina said before that “behind bars, I feel more free than those who put me there,” the Agence France Presse reports.

More from GlobalPost: Chinese cars, made in Bulgaria

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/120419/pussy-riot-punk-rockers-remain-behind-bars