A member of the female punk group Pussy Riot, currently on trial for hooliganism, accused the court of “torture” on Tuesday, saying lengthy hearings leave her no time to eat and rest.
Monday’s court proceedings lasted about 11 hours with short breaks, and ended at about 10 p.m. Moscow time [6 p.m. GMT]. Group member Maria Alyokhina complained that the guards took the group to the detention facility late at night, leaving them little time for rest or preparation for future court sessions.
“They were given no food to eat and were not allowed to sleep. It’s torture,” Alyokhina’s lawyer, Violetta Volkova, said.
She said Alyokhina was too tired to participate in the proceedings, but the judge turned down the motion.
The defense team responded by filing a motion to replace the judge, but it was also dismissed.
Court hearings on the case of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, began on Monday, almost five months after they were arrested and put in pre-trial custody on criminal charges of hooliganism.
The proceedings continued on Tuesday as the prosecution summoned its witnesses to testify. Vasiliy Tsyganyuk, an altar server, said that he accepted the girls’ apologies, even though they were “insincere.”
The three Pussy Riot members were detained after five masked women performed a song in Moscow’s landmark Christ the Savior Cathedral in late February, speaking out 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 was performed at a time of unprecedented protests against the 12-year-long rule of the former KGB officer. The suspects admit being part of the Pussy Riot group and partaking in the performance, but say their motives were purely political. Putin called the protest “unpleasant.”
Their criminal prosecution has sparked a heated debate in Russia between those who support strict punishment for the “desecration” of a holy Orthodox site, those who think the Pussy Riot members should be freed because they committed no crime, and others who believe the punishment should be limited to administrative fines.
The case has also triggered strong criticism from Russian and Western human rights groups. Amnesty International has declared the arrested women “prisoners of conscience.”
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.
On Monday, the group members called their “punk prayer” an “ethical mistake,” but pleaded not guilty to charges of hooliganism. They said they expected their political performance to be perceived with irony.