Band members on trial ‘denied food and sleep’
Defence lawyers have accused Russian authorities of depriving three members of a female punk band of sleep and food during a trial that critics say is part of a campaign to discredit president Vladimir Putin’s opponents.
One of the women needed medical attention in court yesterday on the third day of a trial over the “punk prayer” the Pussy Riot band performed against Mr Putin on the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral in February.
Opponents say the trial is politically motivated and part of an attempt by Mr Putin to silence the opposition, which has in the past eight months organised the biggest protests since he first rose to power in 2000.
A day after opposition leader Alexei Navalny was charged with theft, federal investigators also suggested that a fellow protest organiser, Gennady Gudkov, who is a member of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, had been involved in illegal business activity.
Defence lawyer Violetta Volkova stepped up criticism of the Pussy Riot trial by saying Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, had been woken up at 5am and kept in a tiny room for hours without breakfast before being taken to court.
“The trial is being conducted in an outrageous way,” she said.
“The court sessions are lasting 11 hours a day, and our clients are not being allowed to eat or sleep adequately.”
Ms Volkova said hearings lasted late into the evening and the women got back to their cells long after midnight.
Alyyokhina felt ill in court yesterday and received medical treatment.
The trio are charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and face up to seven years in prison.
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