Thursday, 12. December 2013 - 08:12
25. 07. 12. - 13:00
Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky was arrested and taken to an asylum after he stitched his mouth up and stood in front of the Kazan Cathedral in St Petersburg for several hours to protest against the arrest of three female musicians.
The three members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot, all in their 20s, have been held in jail on hooliganism charges since storming the altar of Moscow's Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February to stage a "punk prayer" to the Virgin Mary to "Throw Putin Out!"
The trial will start in a week, on July 30, but rights groups and defence lawyers for Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, who face up to seven years in prison if convicted, say the case against them is politically motivated.
Their performance was part of the biggest opposition protests of Putin's 12-year rule, ahead of his March election to a new six-year presidential term after a stint as prime minister.
It offended many believers and drew the ire of the head of the dominant Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, a Putin ally who said the church was "under attack by persecutors" and has encouraged pro-church demonstrations.
The case has also prompted a fresh discussion about links between the church and the Kremlin in predominantly Orthodox Christian Russia, where ties between church and state go back more than a millennium.
The case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and opposition activists. U.S. rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers' frontman Anthony Kiedis performed in a T-shirt with a "Pussy Riot" inscription at concerts in St. Petersburg and Moscow last week.
The artist Pavlensky was later released from the asylum after doctors gave him "a clean bill of mental health."
Pavlensky told RIA Novosti after taking the stitches off that his performance "demonstrated the government’s clampdown on the freedom of expression and growing censorship in art and media in Russia."
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