‘God is judging’ women protesters, says priest

by
03 August 2012

by a staff reporter

AP

In the dock: Marya Alyokhina (left), Yekaterina Samutsevich (top), and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, of the band Pussy Riot, look out from behind a glass wall in court in Moscow on Monday

In the dock: Marya Alyokhina (left), Yekaterina Samutsevich (top), and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, of the band Pussy Riot, look out from behind a glass ...

A SENIOR priest in the Russian Orthodox Church has said that the three singers accused of desecrating a Moscow cathedral with their performance of a "punk prayer" are being judged by God. The singers are all members of the band Pussy Riot.

Fr Vsevolod Chaplin, who often acts as a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, said: "It was a sin against God, and it is God that is judging it. And all Christians should know this."

He denied allegations that the Church was lobbying for the punishment of the band members. "The Church does not put any pressure on the court," he said, and he accused "the West" of not understanding Russia.

Defence lawyers for the singers have claimed that their clients are being tortured by lack of food and sleep. The three defendants - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, aged 22, Marya Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 - have been imprisoned since February, when protesters entered the cathedral to sing a song that called on the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out".

The stunt was designed to highlight the close relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Vladimir Putin, then Prime Minister, whose campaign to return to the presidency was supported by the leader of the Church, Patriarch Kirill.

The women are accused of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. They began the trial on Monday this week with an apology, saying in a statement that they did not mean to insult any religious feelings, and that their motives were purely political.

They expressed regret for their "ethical mistake", and said that they were sorry for taking their action to the cathedral. "I thought the Church loved all its children, but it seems the Church loves only those children who love Putin," Ms Alyokhina's statement said.

If found guilty, the women could face up to seven years in prison.

The "victims" of the stunt - people in the cathedral at the time - did not accept the apology. Tatyana Anosova, who collects donations and gives out candles in the cathedral, said: "They did not merely insult me: they spat into my face, spat into the face of my God.

"One of them was bowing with her back turned on to the altar - she was showing her bottom to the altar, and it is God who's there. My soul was torn to pieces."

The trial of the singers has attracted worldwide attention. Stephen Fry has joined Sting and the band the Red Hot Chili Peppers in calling for their release.

In a recent poll by the Russian independent polling organisation the Levada Center, 43 per cent of the respondents thought that a prison sentence of two to seven years would be a disproportionate response, while 33 per cent thought that it would be adequate.

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