Pussy Riot members deliver last plea before court hands down sentences

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the three members of the Pussy Riot feminist punk band tried for disorderly conduct at the Christ the Savior Cathedral, does not consider herself defeated and insists that there is more faith and sincerity in them than in those who are trying them.

Delivering her last plea at the Khamovnichesky Court on Wednesday, Tolokonnikova said, "This is not the trial of Pussy Riot but of the entire political system in Russia."

"The top government officials stand in a church with righteous looks on their faces, but their insincerity makes them bigger sinners than we are. The use of force to regulate social protests, the involuntary civic passivity of most of the people - we can't accept this. Russian air alone is painful to us," Tolokonnikova said.

She said she is witnessing the collapse of this system's expectations.

"What the system expected has not happened. Increasingly more people believe us and think that we should be free rather than be held behind bars. I have seen them in courts and in detention facilities. They support us and say that our performance was justified," Tolokonnikova said.

"We are grateful to all those who stand up for us outside! And to those who pray for us! There is no such a social group as Orthodox believers, no matter what the prosecution is trying to prove," she said.

"We have not been insincere in court even for a second, and the other side is insincere most of the time. And the people feel this! The truth triumphs! Madonna gave a show yesterday [in Moscow], and she was performing with the Pussy Riot words on her back," Tolokonnikova said.

She argued that increasingly more people all over the world see that they are being held in prison unlawfully.

"We can say whatever we want. And the prosecution is saying only what the political system allows it to say. They are forbidden [to say anything else]. Their mouths are stitched up, and they are just dummies here. I hope they will realize this and will follow the way of truth and sincerity," she said.

"A human being is a creature that is imperfect, makes mistakes and strives for wisdom but never gets it," Tolokonnikova said.

"This is what makes us act. And this is exactly what made us go to the Christ the Savior Cathedral. I believe Christianity, as I see it, encourages a search for the truth. It makes sense that Christ was with whores. He said he was helping them and forgiving them. But I don't see this at this trial - the prosecution is trampling on Christianity!" Tolokonnikova said.

She urged everyone "to finally get in touch with each other and strive for wisdom together rather than stigmatize."

"Who could have imagined that the history of Stalinist terror does not teach anyone and that inquisition methods are taking root in law enforcement institutions and courts? We have been denied the right to be heard throughout the proceedings. We are just stage scenery, elements of live nature and bodies delivered here," she said.

She added that, while they are in a cage, they do not feel defeated.

Another Pussy Riot member, Maria Alyokhina, said in her last plea that such a trial "would have been impossible in a healthy society."

"How could it happen that our performance has grown into a huge trouble?" she said.

"Our apologies have been branded as 'so-called', which hurts me and causes me a moral injury, because we have said so many sincere words. I consider this trial 'so-called', and I don't fear you. You can only take 'so-called' freedom from me, which is the only one existing in this country, but you cannot take away my inner freedom from me," Alyokhina said.

The third Pussy Riot member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, claimed that the entire international community sees how biased the trial has been. "The case has been fabricated, which is obvious to everyone," she said.

The women have extensively quoted the Bible, Russian literature classics and other writers and philosophers who were persecuted for their political beliefs.

The audience in the court greeted each defendant's speech with applause.

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