Russian human rights campaigners hopes for Pussy Riot members' release

Russia's oldest human rights campaigner, the 85-year-old leader of Moscow Helsinki Group, Lyudmila Alexeyeva has said she is watching the trial in the Pussy Riot case with concern and that it is unlikely the band members will be acquitted.

"I know from my own experience: if someone in our country is deprived of freedom before trial, they will not be found innocent. There is a fear that a person will demand a compensation for the time spent in custody," Alexeyeva told Interfax on Wednesday.

"I hope they will be sentenced to a term they have already spent in custody," she said.

The authorities should not have initiated the trial over Pussy Riot, she said.

"They behaved badly in the church. It is the church and not the state who can condemn them," she said.

The punk band members did not commit a criminal offense, and maximum what they deserve is an administrative penalty, Alexeyeva said.

On February 21, 2012, several masked members of the Pussy Riot punk band staged a performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral which prompted a broad public outcry. Police launched an inquiry under the Russian Criminal Code Article 213 (hooliganism). Three members were arrested. Their custody was extended several times.

Amnesty International has declared all three Pussy Riot members as Prisoners of Conscience.

The trial is taking place at the Khamovnichesky court in Moscow.

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