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12:15 GMT +3 hours21 December 2014
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Judge Refuses to Summon Putin in Pussy Riot Case

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A Moscow city court judge on Monday refused to summon President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the trial of three women from the Pussy Riot punk group.

A Moscow city court judge on Monday refused to summon President Vladimir Putin and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in the trial of three women from the Pussy Riot punk group.

Judge Marina Syrova dismissed the motion filed by the punk band's defense team. She also refused to return the case against the women back to the Prosecutor General’s Office for further investigation.

At the same time, the judge ordered to prolong the period during which Pussy Riot lawyers could study the materials of the criminal case to July 27.

The three suspects, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, have been in pre-trial custody since March and could face up to seven years in jail.

Over the weekend, the group got public encouragement from two rock bands - Franz Ferdinand and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Red Hot Chili Peppers' lead singer, Anthony Kiedis, on Sunday performed with his band at Moscow’s Luzniky Stadium wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with Pussy Riot.

Both Kiedis and the group’s bassist, Michael "Flea" Balzary, wrote letters of support for Pussy Riot. They handed the letters to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verziolov, who said he would give them to the jailed women on Tuesday.

“Nadya and Katya and Masha, we love you, we love to support you and are here to help you… Anthony Kiedis,” the letter of the Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist said in English.

“Nadya, Katya, Masha I think about you all the time, sending you all my finest energy that I can. I applaud your bravery and I pray for your release. And I will try to make aware as many people as I can. With love, Flea,” bassist Michael "Flea" Balzary said in his letter of support.

Playing a gig at the Afisha Picnic, an annual open air festival that was held outside of Moscow on Sunday, British rock band Franz Ferdinand dedicated their song “This Fire” to jailed Pussy Riot members, Radio Liberty reported.

“This song is dedicated to all of those musicians that end up in jail for just saying what they think,” lead vocalist Alex Kapranos told the crowd in a video captured during the open air concert uploaded on YouTube. “This is for the girls in Pussy Riot.”

“Please show your support for the jailed members of the band Pussy Riot, even if you are not a fan of their music…” Kapranos said on his twitter after the gig.

The three women were detained after four masked members of Pussy Riot performed a song in Moscow’s largest cathedral in late February against what they said was church support for Vladimir Putin’s presidential election campaign.

The song, entitled “Holy S**t,” featured the lyrics “Virgin Mary, drive Putin out!” and came amid unprecedented demonstrations against the twelve-year rule of the former KGB officer. The suspects admit being part of the Pussy Riot group, but say they did not take part in the protest in the landmark Christ the Savior cathedral. Putin called the protest “unpleasant.”

The group members have been charged with hooliganism as part of an organized group.

Prosecutors say the group “insulted in a sacrilegious manner the centuries-old foundations of the Russian Orthodox Church” and performed a “blasphemous” song in the cathedral

A host of figures from Russia’s arts world, including some notable Putin supporters, signed a letter last month calling for the suspects to be released. The letter was later backed by the Kremlin’s own rights council. Amnesty International also named the suspects prisoners of conscience in April.

While a number of figures within Russia’s influential Orthodox Church have expressed disquiet at the continued detention of the suspects, Church head Patriarch Kirill criticized in March those believers he said were seeking leniency for the group.

And leading Church official Vsevolod Chaplin said last month that God had revealed to him his displeasure over the protest. “This sin will be punished in this life and the next,” Chaplin cited God as saying.

Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for “Revolt in Russia!” and chanting “Putin’s got scared” before being detained by police.