Moscow's Khamovnichesky Court decided to extend the current term of detention for the Pussy Riot members

Three women from punk band Pussy Riot, arrested and charged with hooliganism after staging an anti-Putin performance in a cathedral, have seen their pleas rejected by the Moscow Khamovnichesky Court. The defense lawyers for Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina filed a motion during a custody hearing held this Friday. "The Khamovnichesky Court has refused to accept the requests made by defense attorney Violetta Volkova. Court Chairman Danilkin is hiding from us," defense lawyer Nikolai Polozov wrote on Twitter during the hearing.

Polozov wrote that the defense requested that witnesses be called, some evidence excluded and additional expert assessments ordered. The court's spokesperson Darya Lyakh told Interfax that the defense lawyers should not have filed their requests with the court office. "All requests filed by the parties will be considered in the preliminary hearings," Lyakh said.

"The defense lawyer was told that if the requests were filed with the court office, the hearings could be adjourned," she said.

The defense asked for President Vladimir Putin and Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill to be summoned as witnesses.

Defense lawyer Mark Feigin wrote on Twitter that there were 34 names on the list of people asked to be called in as witnesses in the upcoming trial of the Pussy Riot band artists. They include detectives, the three women's former teachers and the experts from the Institute of Cultural Studies, whose assessments underlie the indictment. Well-known Orthodox theologian Protodeacon Andrei Kurayev and some artists are also said to be on the list.

Later on Friday the Moscow Khamovnichesky Court began closed-door preliminary hearings in the case and decided to extend the current term of detention for the three women until January 12, 2013. The current term of detention of the accused, who have been in jail since February, expires on July 24.

On February 21, 2012, the Pussy Riot trio, with their faces covered by masks, staged an anti-Putin performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral. The incident prompted a broad public outcry.

The police opened a criminal case on the charge of unruly behavior. Three band members were arrested. Their arrest period was extended several times.

According to human rights activists the maximum sentence to be issued against the three women should be an administrative penalty for minor hooliganism. Amnesty International has referred to the three Pussy Riot members as “prisoners of conscience”.

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