Pussy Riot trial: Putin expresses hope for 'correct decision'
Popular sentiment about the trial of Pussy Riot, a band accused of profaning a Russian Orthodox altar, has shifted amid dismay over the women's harsh treatment. Putin has now weighed in.
President Vladimir Putin has finally weighed in on the ongoing trial of the Pussy Riot punk rockers, which has dominated Russia's Twittersphere and blogosphere all week, and has offered his opinion that the three young women accused of profaning a Russian Orthodox altar with an obscenity-laced "punk prayer" should not be punished "too harshly."Skip to next paragraph
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"There was nothing good about that [Pussy Riot's alleged performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior last February]," Mr. Putin told reporters in London, where he is attending the Olympic Games. "Nevertheless, I don't think they should be punished too harshly. I hope they will draw some conclusions themselves."
"It's the court that must issue the final decision," Putin said. "I hope the court issues a correct decision, a well-substantiated one."
Putin's remarks have greatly encouraged sympathizers of the Pussy Riot women, who face up to seven years imprisonment for an act that may have been blasphemous in the eyes of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, but has legal experts scratching their heads to find any corpus delicti, or evidence of an actual crime, under the terms of Russia's secular Constitution.
Many experts say that the Kremlin's attitude – rather than the facts of the case – will be decisive in determining the outcome. Hence Putin's sudden talk of leniency suggests that authorities may be rethinking the wisdom of keeping three young women in pretrial detention for five months and then staging a high-profile trial that has visibly unraveled over the past five days into what sometimes looks like a cross between a circus and a medieval religious tribunal.
"This case is a shame and a disgrace," says Genry Reznik, chairman of the Moscow Bar Association and lawyer for one of the Pussy Riot women. "For a wrong song, sung in the wrong place at the wrong time, these young women have been kept in intolerable prison conditions for five months, treated like dangerous criminals, and threatened with more Draconian prison sentences than many truly serious criminals ever face? This is straight out of the Middle Ages."
Major Russian media have largely steered clear of reporting the courtroom details, and the judge has severely restricted access for reporters.
But Russia's freewheeling Internet has taken up the slack. Several blogs, Twitterfeeds, and online news agencies, including the prestigious Russian Legal Information Agency (which provides a running summary of the trial in Russian and English), have focused public attention on the unfolding spectacle, which has included raucous daily demonstrations outside the Khamovichesky District Court for and against Pussy Riot.