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Pussy Riot Trial Begins Over Putin 'Punk Prayer' Altar Protest

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Facing trial: Pussy Riot
Facing trial: Pussy Riot

Three members of the Russian feminist punk rock band, Pussy Riot, face trial on Monday against allegations of "hooliganism".

The trio performed their single Punk Prayer in a cathedral in Moscow in protest of the return of Vladimir Putin to the Russia presidency.

The song's lyrics call on the Virgin Mary to "throw Putin out", and the official charge against the women is hooliganism driven by "religious hatred".

If found guilty the three members - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, and Maria Alekhina, 24 – could face up to seven years in prison.

They have been in custody since their arrest in March, two of the three women have young children. A court recently ruled that the women are to remain in custody for a further six months and it is unclear how long the trial will last.

The trial has divided public opinion.

Amnesty International UK have called the trial a "violation of their right to free speech" and have began a text message campaign calling for their immediate release.

"Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer' and anarchist lyrics might not be everyone's cup of tea, but the Russian authorities' enthusiasm to silence, harass and detain the women is an indisputable violation of their right to free speech," their statement reads. "We believe that Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina are prisoners of conscience, and are calling for their immediate release."

Speaking to the BBC, Pyotr Verzilov - husband of imprisoned band member Nadia Tolokonnikova - said:

"It's personally Putin and his closest assistants basically leading this case. And it shows that on the twelfth year of controlling Russia, Putin is starting to lose the boundaries. He no more understands the limits of what he can do and what he cannot do."

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