(AFP) – Jul 9, 2012
MOSCOW — A Russian court on Monday ruled hunger-striking punks Pussy Riot must stay in jail ahead of their trial for an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a church, despite pleas from backers including media magnate Alexander Lebedev.
Moscow city court rejected an appeal against the three young women's detention after they went on a hunger strike last Wednesday over a decision to curtail their time to read case materials.
Backers in the courtroom included Lebedev, who owns Britain's The Independent and Evening Standard dailies and co-owns Russia's liberal thrice-weekly Novaya Gazeta.
He was one of the high-profile figures to back the women by signing letters personally guaranteeing their good conduct. More than a hundred Russian arts figures earlier signed an open letter calling for their release.
"It is an incorrect decision -- unjust and unfair," Lebedev told journalists.
"Unfortunately the judicial system is very much inclined to be part of what they call the vertical of power," he said referring to the Russia's Kremlin-ruled top-down system.
The women's lawyers have predicted that the trial will begin in late July or August.
"I absolutely do not hope for a positive decision in the women's case," lawyer Violetta Volkova told journalists.
"They are keeping on with the hunger strike. I am very concerned."
The decision came after one of the women's lawyers spread a rumour that they would be freed.
Lawyer Nikolai Polozov had told Interfax news agency on Sunday that he had received a call from "the most reliable source" saying that the women would be released. He also wrote of the call on Twitter.
After the Monday decisions he said he had been deceived. He said that celebrity signatories of an open letter in support of the women had asked an official for off-the-record comment on the case.
"We were fooled just like you. We are just as upset as you," he wrote on Twitter.
"About our source: it was respected people from the 'list of 103' who asked about the case. We have no pity for the official but we can't let those people down," he said.
Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova told journalists not to believe what she derided as "astrological predictions" on the women's release.
"I would like to ask you not to overdramatise the hearing of this case. To let the court look at it calmly, not looking round at statements and astrological predictions about the decisions," she said.
The women members of the band, which performs in brightly coloured balaclavas and dresses, face up to seven years for singing a song critical of the Orthodox Church's relations with Putin in Moscow's central Church of Christ the Saviour. They have been held in pre-trial detention since March.
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