Amnesty International urges release of Pussy Riot members

Amnesty International has questioned the objectivity of the trial of the Pussy Riot punk band over its concert at the Church of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

This trial should have never taken place, the human rights watchdog's press secretary for Europe and Central Asia Lydia Aroyo said in a statement that reached Interfax on Monday.

Three Pussy Riot girls are standing trial for their legal protest, not for a crime, and therefore must be immediately released, the statement says.

They dared challenge the two pillars of the Russian establishment - the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church, Aroyo said, adding that even though many people found their action insulting, a potential seven-year prison sentenced for hooliganism is completely inappropriate.

Amnesty International has serious doubts that the defendants - Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova - will get a fair trial due to a very unfavorable atmosphere fueled by statements from a number of top-level politicians and clerics, Aroyo said.

Quite evidently, it's a politically motivated trial, she said.

The trial resumed on Monday. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova refused to plead guilty.

"Our refusal to plead guilty of the charges specified in Part 2, Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code does not mean that we are not ready to explain our actions or to apologize for hurt feelings," she said in a statement read by her lawyer Violetta Volkova at Monday's hearing.

"My ethical assessment of Pussy Riot's punk prayer is as follows: it was an ethical mistake on our part to let our planned surprise punk concert belonging to the political genre to be taken into a church. But it hadn't even occurred to us back then that our actions could be insulting to anyone," Tolokonnikova said.

The prosecutor accused the Pussy Riot girls of carrying out a premeditated action aimed at insulting the feeling of believers.

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