Verdict in Russian punk trial set for Aug. 17

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Early in the trial, the band members apologized to all Orthodox believers, saying that they did not mean to offend anyone and that their performance was aimed against Putin and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who had urged Russians to vote for Putin.

Prosecutors and lawyers for church employees, who were described as the injured party in the case, insisted that they saw no political motives behind the band’s actions, only blasphemy and hatred toward Orthodox believers.

“How did it happen that our performance, which was a small and clumsy stunt, brought so much trouble?” Alekhina told the court. “How can this happen in a healthy society? And now it takes thousands of people around the world to prove the obvious, to prove that the three of us are innocent.”

Supporters in the courtroom greeted Alekhina’s speech with enthusiastic applause, to which the judge responded, “This is not a theater.”

About a dozen Pussy Riot supporters also gathered outside the courthouse, and at least three, including a protester wearing a balaclava, were detained, the Interfax news agency reported.

Before their church stunt, the band became an Internet sensation for performing a song that praised last winter’s massive anti-Putin protests from a spot on Red Square used in the past for announcing czar’s decrees. The group members have described themselves as feminists and accused the Russian leadership of infringing on the rights of women and the gay and lesbian community.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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