ARTINFO Russia Reports: Pussy Riot's Guilty Verdict Sparks Fury and Arrests Outside Moscow Courthouse

ARTINFO Russia Reports: Pussy Riot's Guilty Verdict Sparks Fury and Arrests Outside Moscow Courthouse
Supporters of the Russian female punk band Pussy Riot
(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

MOSCOW — Despite the hopes of the many supporters of the punk band Pussy Riot, Judge Syrova's verdict came down at 6pm, Moscow time: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich were found guilty on charges of hooliganism (Criminal Code Article 213 [2]), and sentenced to two years in a minimum security penal colony.

About 2,000-3,000 people gathered around Khamovnichesky court. Evidently, some Orthodox believers with icons lurked among the mass, but the crowd mainly consisted of Pussy Riot supporters. Brandishing slogans like “Free Pussy Riot,” the crowd cheered the activists as the police hauled them away to paddy wagons. As judge Syrova announced the verdict, members of the cround cried out: “Shame,” “Free Pussy Riot,” “Fascism,” “Inquisition,” and “We won’t forget and we won’t forgive!”

One young woman wearing a pink balaclava scaled the fence of the Turkish Embassy, chanting “Free Pussy Riot.” She was chased by the police in a Spiderman-like pursuit. That proved to be a smart move on the young woman's part: The Turkish ambassador refused to surrender her to the police, saying the embassy was Turkish territory.

Not everybody was that lucky, however: Around 60 people were arrested in the vicinity of the court. The detainees showed no aggressive behavior before, during, or after the detention.

Pussy Riot's lawyers — Mark Feygin, Violetta Volkova, and Nikolay Polozov — intend to file a complaint about the judge's decision (they have just 10 days to do so), even though “it seems crystal clear to us that this judicial verdict will not improve,” Feygin told the assembled journalists. The lawyers are also going to appeal to the International Court of Justice.

Following the verdict, the Russian Orthodox Church attempted to distance themselves from the affair. Church speakers are now asking for a pardon for the girls, bestowing on them their tardy Christian forgiveness: “Without calling into question the validity of the verdict, we appeal to the authorities to have mercy on the convicted, hoping that in the future they will disavow any recurrence of such blasphemy.”

In his commentary to RBC, the well-known advocate and respected Russian lawyer Henri Reznik decried the decision, saying that it lacked even a shred of evidence. “It’s a shame and discredits the Russian system of justice,” he said. Most people who watched the court hearings seem to share Reznik's standpoint. Indignation was writ large on the faces of the crowd that gathered next to the court.

Federal TV channels have already aired reports showing that this case did not worsen the attitude of the citizens to either the authorities or the judicial system; their feelings could not become any more acrimonious than they already were.

It is clear that the case is not over yet. Apart from the Russian Orthodox Church’s representatives, speakers from Putin's United Russia party also mentioned that the verdict was too “harsh,” suggesting the possibility of a pro-clemency scenario to improve the party's image: “Probably, the President will make a decision on the case.”

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