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Russia punk band to stay in pre-trial custody
Three members of Pussy Riot face up to seven years in prison for storming church altar and singing anti-Putin song.
Last Modified: 20 Jul 2012 20:54
There has been support and opposition to the trial of Pussy Riot outside the courts [EPA]

A Russian court has ruled that three members of a punk band arrested after singing a protest song against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main Orthodox church will remain in custody.

Darya Lyakh, a court spokeswoman, said on Friday that the next hearing in the trial would take place on 23 July when the court would name a date for the case to be heard.

The hearing is being held behind closed doors while supporters and opponents of the band demonstrate outside.

The women, part of a band called Pussy Riot who have been held in pre-trial custody for almost five months, face up to seven years in jail on charges of hooliganism for storming the altar in multi-coloured masks to sing a "punk prayer" to the Virgin Mary to "Throw Putin Out!".

The February 21 protest, exposed deep divisions over the church leadership's backing for Putin and the scale of punishment faced by the women, two of whom have young children.

Defence lawyer Mark Feigin said the court's acquiescence to a prosecution request to hold Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich until January 13 showed Russian leaders had given orders for their conviction.

"Today's decision only proves again that our role as defendants here is a pure formality," Feigin told reporters after the hearing, which was closed to the media.

Nikolai Polozov, another defence lawyer, said authority figures were trying to portray the protest as "an attack on Russia by some dark powers".

"It is just a theatre of the absurd, not a real court," said Polozov.

The protest which took place in the Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow as one of a number of performances intended as a protest against Putin in the run-up to Russia's presidential elections in March.

The Orthodox Church has asked for the women to be treated severely.

The prosecution called the protest by the group as "a malicious, carefully planned act to denigrate the feelings and beliefs of the many Orthodox Christian worshippers and to belittle the state's spiritual foundation".

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