Freed Pussy Riot Member Heads Back to Court to Defend Video

Yekaterina Samutsevich. Source: ITAR-TASSFrom

Yekaterina Samutsevich, the one arrested member of the punk group Pussy Riot who has been released on probation, has announced plans to take part in federal proceedings to determine whether a video of her group’s “punk prayer” should be qualified as “extremist.” The news came on Thursday from the activist’s lawyer, legal analyst Irina Khrunova of the Agora human rights association. The case is set to be heard in Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky Court.

Samutsevich, who had been sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism fueled by religious hatred,” decided to exercise her right to take part in the proceedings as an interested person, as covered under article 263 of Russia’s Civil Procedural Code.

The activist believes that her rights and legal interests could be impacted if the video is deemed extremist, and has requested copies of all the materials involved in the case. She has also requested adequate time to prepare for the court session.

Khrunova said that her client’s parole status doesn’t prevent her from asking the court to take part in the case in this way.

“Samutsevich isn’t losing anything. In accordance with the court verdict, it has been established that she participated in the video as an actress. Nobody’s saying that she edited or distributed it. Therefore, if the video, with her participation (as an actress) is declared extremist, it’s going to affect her rights,” Khrunova explained. She added that it wasn’t clear yet whether the court would actually grant the request. The two other Pussy Riot members who were sentenced to prison – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina – could also choose to take part through proxies.

Tolokonnikova’s lawyer, Mark Feygin, said that he hadn’t heard of Samutsevich’s appeal and so hadn’t discussed it with his client.

Feygin said he couldn’t respond unequivocally to the question of whether it’s worth it for the Pussy Riot prisoners to get involved in the case. “The fact that Samutsevich wants to participate as an interested person isn’t a bad thing. And I understand that she and her lawyer would be able to defend the interests of all three girls in regards to the court possibly declaring the video to be extremist,” Feygin said. “We’d be glad to let her act as our so-called ‘correspondent’ [meaning ‘proxy’ –],” he added.

On the other hand, the lawyer said that getting involved in the case could ultimately harm the activists.

“If we get involved in the process right now as interested persons, we thereby legally confirm a direct link between our defendants and this video,” Feygin said. “I’m not sure that we should admit a legal connection with this video right now, since it could affect their punishment, particularly the possibility of parole.”

Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, said that he and the two remaining jailed Pussy Riot members know about Samutsevich’s appeal. “Nadya was told about this today, and now she needs to discuss it with her lawyer. They’ll decide together what to do,” he said.

Verzilov said that he just met with his wife on Thursday. “Nadya was assigned to the seventh unit, and she’s been working in the sewing shop for two days now. Relations here are good, correct, everything is remarkably good so far,” he explained. “Her cellmates treat her very well, despite reports that there would be problems. The penal colony management deals with us with apprehension and astonishment, but at the same time they’re very friendly and respectful,” he added.

The news that the Prosecutor General had agreed to check the video of Pussy Riot’s performance for extremism came out on November 2.

The clip was a recording of the band’s February 21, 2012, performance in Moscow’s Church of Christ the Savior: five girls in brightly colored dresses and balaclavas stepped onto the altar and performed about one minute of a song calling for the Virgin Mary to “banish” Vladimir Putin. Liberal Democratic Party State Duma Deputy Aleksandr Starovoytov requested that the video, along with Martin Scorsese’s film “The Last Temptation of Christ,” be checked for extremism. In his opinion, “the videos offend the feelings of millions of believers, negatively influence social ethics and morality, and watching them carries negative consequences.” Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin said that a check had been ordered by the Moscow Procurator. In the end, a “psycho-linguistic analysis” of the Pussy Riot video was carried out, the results of which led the procurator to send the Zamoskvoretsky Court a statement about declaring it extremist.

Neither the Zamoskvoretsky Court nor the Procurator General offered comment to