Pussy Riot member released on probation, sentence upheld for 2 others
October 10, 2012
After an appeal, a Moscow court overturned the original ruling and released on probation Ekaterina Samutsevich, the Pussy Riot activist who previously requested new counsel in light of the circumstances surrounding her arrest.
Samutsevich asked for a new lawyer on October 1, when the court was first convened to hear appeals on behalf the group. In a surprise move, Samutsevich claimed that she required new counsel, as the defense lawyers were only representing the group as a whole and special circumstances applied to her individual case. The appeals process was briefly delayed while Samutsevich sought new representation.
Irina Khrunova, Samutsvich’s new counsel, argued on appeal that Samutsevich had been removed from the church premises before she was able to engage in the ‘punk prayer.’
Khrunova emphasized the fact that Samutsevich never took part in the protest, and that she was only on the pulpit for 15 seconds. In the Orthodox tradition, only male priests may enter the pulpit, which is barred with a rail. Samutsevich barely had time to remove her guitar from its case, according to the additional statements, and was therefore unable to perform any of the offensive acts for which the defendants were found guilty.
In reading her statement, Samutsevich declared that while she did intend to perform a political act when entering the church on February 21, she had no intention of offending any religious beliefs.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs expressed shock at the new developments, calling Samutsevich’s position “hypocritical” and an “attempt to delay verdict”. They argued, unsuccessfully, that Samutsevich’s confirmation of her intent to carry out the protest warranted punishment in and of itself, and that any other statement was contradictory.
Samutsevich was released shortly after the session. Though she appeared reluctant to comment, she told journalists that she was sad that the other two band members are still imprisoned, and that she will continue fighting for them. Her counsel, Khrunova, who used to represent jailed former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky in court, said that Samutsevich faces further challenges in her bid for freedom.
“Of course today’s decision of the Moscow City Court to exchange jail time for probation is a victory, but it is not the final victory, as she has still been found guilty of committing a crime,” Khrunova said. If Samutsevich agrees, Khrunova will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Samutsevich will remain on probation for two years after she is released, and any deviation from her probation will likely result in her being arrested again. She is also required to regularly report to a police station.
The one on the far left (no pun intended) is Ekaterina Samutsevich. The fight to free Pussy Riot must continue until all three women are free.