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Pussy Riot judge put under state protection

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:44 EDT
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Supporters of Pussy Riot across the street from the Russian Embassy in Washington last week. Russia on Thursday placed the judge who will decide the fate of the three Pussy Riot singers under state protection as support mounted for the singers who insulted Vladimir Putin. (AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards)
 
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Russia on Thursday placed the judge who will decide the fate of the three Pussy Riot singers under state protection as support mounted for the singers who insulted Vladimir Putin.

Judge Marina Syrova is presiding over the highly-publicised trial of the young female punk rockers, who face three years in prison for staging a protest stunt against President Putin inside a landmark Moscow church.

She was due to begin reading her verdict on Friday at 1100 GMT.

A spokeswoman for the Khamovnichesky District Court said on Thursday that Syrova had been placed under state protection after receiving threats from Pussy Riot supporters.

“The threats have come from supporters of the band’s members,” spokeswoman Darya Lyakh told AFP. She refused to say whether Syrova’s family members could be placed under protection as well.

Members of the once unheralded band have been in pre-trial detention for five months awaiting the verdict, while global pop stars, rights groups and foreign governments alike have all rallied to their defence.

The prosecution has asked the court to sentence the women, two of whom have young children, to three years in a corrective labour facility for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

Syrova, until recently an obscure judge, reports to Viktor Danilkin. In 2010 he extended the jail stay of critical tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his partner Platon Lebedev after finding them guilty of money laundering and embezzlement.

Previously a member of the prosecutor’s office, Syrova was appointed by Putin as a federal judge at the Khamovnichesky court in 2008 after serving briefly as a magistrate.

Very little is known about her except that she tends to side with the prosecution, observers said.

“In 90 percent of cases she agrees with the arguments of the prosecution,” wrote online publication OpenSpace.ru which analysed her published rulings over the past three years.

“Among the 178 verdicts delivered by Marina Syrova there is only one acquittal,” it said.

Syrova’s abrasive manner and disregard for the arguments of the defence won her few admirers among Pussy Riot supporters.

One of the defence lawyers, Nikolai Polozov, said in a caustic message he was hoping that the judge would be guarded by dogs like the Pussy Riot members, who have been accompanied by a guard dog in court.

“I hope they will guard her with special measures, with dogs,” he said on Twitter.

Court bailiffs during the trial have led a dog — either a German Shepherd or a huge Rottweiler depending on the day — behind the women as they leave and enter the courtroom.

Observers say courts in Russia carefully toe the Kremlin line, and few expect the judge to deliver a not guilty verdict.

Russian novelist Boris Akunin, who over the past months has become a vocal member of the nascent opposition to Putin, said he would appear outside the Khamovnichesky court on Friday to express solidarity with the punk singers.

“This prolonged epic of the absurd is more and more acquiring the trappings of a public obsession,” Akunin wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

Akunin said that outside the courtroom he might be joined by some of Russia’s best known actors, directors and musicians who in June called for the release of the young women in an open letter.

Boris Strugatsky, one of the country’s most acclaimed sci-fi writers, said that by prosecuting the singers the authorities were seeking to sow discord in society.

“It’s impossible to describe my disgust,” he said in comments on popular Echo of Moscow radio station.

“Who launched this machine of mutual misunderstanding, a ferocious desire to unmask the enemy and wipe him off from the face of the earth, and why? Who needs this?”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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