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Pussy Riot appeal suspended after band member fires lawyers

Three jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot had their appeal adjourned after one of the women unexpectedly fired her lawyers.

Pussy riot protest pictureEnlarge
Supporters of the Russian punk band 'Pussy Riot' wear masks and hold placards demanding their freedom as they protest in front of of the Russian embassy in Warsaw on August 17, 2012. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

Three jailed members of Pussy Riot have had their appeal hearing postponed after one of them unexpectedly fired her lawyers, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The punks-come-activists will return to court on Oct. 10, when they'll seek to challenge their two-year jail term for "hooliganism."

Their appeal hearing was adjourned almost as soon as it began on Monday, when band member Yekaterina Samutsevich informed the court that she and her three defense attorneys had different positions on the case. She apparently didn't give further details.

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The same lawyers had been representing all three defendants, according to the Associated Press. Samutsevich's band mates, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, said they supported her decision, but would not be switching their defense team.

It's not clear what was behind the move, which appears to have come as a surprise to the lawyers themselves and which some fear could weaken the women's case, according to Reuters.

State prosecutors accused the defense of trying deliberately to hold up proceedings, RIA Novosti said, while Russian political analyst Olga Mefodyeva told the AP that it could be an attempt to keep the case in the headlines.

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The trio was convicted and sentenced in August after staging a "punk prayer" in Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral, in which they appealed to the Virgin Mary to overthrow Vladimir Putin, although in less polite terms.

Since then, their cause has won the support of human rights groups, musicians and other public figures the world over.

Perhaps conscious of how their imprisonment reflects on Russia's government, Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev has argued that they should be given an early release – while on Sunday, the Russian Orthodox Church said they should be entitled to clemency, as long as they repent.

According to the BBC, however, the women have already told their lawyers that they will not admit they have done anything they need to feel guilty about.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/russia/121001/pussy-riot-appeal-suspended