Pussy Riot members say they must be acquitted

Pussy Riot punk group singer Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who found herself in the dock after a scandalous performance at the Christ the Savior cathedral in Moscow, said her guilt has not been proven and that she must be acquitted.

"I think I must be acquitted, "Tolokonnikova said during hearings at Moscow's Khamovnichesky Court.

Tolokonnikova said that Pussy Riot singers never use dark masks, but put on nice bright-colored balaclavas. "This emphasizes the carnival-like and friendly nature of our performances. We are clowns and we engage in buffoonery . We are kind of crazy. But we do not convey any evil," she said.

"We were not motivated by hatred or evil feelings," Tolokonnikova said.

She cited the first couplet of the song they sang at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, saying that it carries their political, not religious motivation.

The words in the refrain, which prosecutors said were obscene, is in fact an idiom, Tolokonnikova said. "I did and I do apologize for probably hurting someone against my will. I used that as an idiom. These words convey our attitude to the current political situation," she said.

Tolokonnikova also said that if the Pussy Riot singers experienced any religious animosity, it would have made itself felt in their earlier songs.

"Investigators have seized the product of our intellectual work for the past five years. If we were hostile to believers they would have surely found and demonstrated the stuff. But they did not find a single text that would carry religious hatred," he said in her final statement to the court.

She repeated emphatically that the action at the Christ the Savior Cathedral was political.

Tolokonnikova also said that the singers did not know that women are not allowed to enter the ambo.

"We did not know anything about the solium or the ambo. We only knew we could not enter the altar. But we didn't. Women's presence at the ambo is a disputed issue in the Orthodox community, I think. Witnesses said that certain women were allowed into the ambo quite officially," Tolokonnikova said.

The two other Pussy Riot singers said, too, that they must be acquitted. "I must be acquitted, as all of us should," Maria Alyokhina said.

Witnesses' testimony indicates that they turned up in court at their bosses' order, she said. The investigator, she added, threatened to jail the singers if they did not confess. It was blackmail, she said.

"Current relations between the church and state are unacceptable," Alyokhina said.

Yekaterina Samutsevich said there was neither hatred nor ill feelings in their performance.

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