Punk protestors will plead not guilty to hooliganism for their performance in February

Three members of Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot have gone on trial in Moscow.

Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich have been in pre-trial detention since March of this year, after they staged a protest gig against Russian President Vladimir Putin. A court recently ruled that the three women will remain in custody until January 12, 2013, however legal arguments will start to be heard today (July 30).

At the start of the trial, the three women were led into court in handcuffs, and locked into a cage of bullet-proof glass. In court, Tolokonnikova said they would not plead guilty, but that did not mean they were not prepared to apologise for the pain their performance in the cathedral had caused, the BBC reports.

The women each stood up and answered a series of questions from the judge in turn, which included their educational level, citizenship and the birth dates of their children.

Yesterday, other members of the group claimed that Putin is scared of them. One member, known as Squirrel, said: “Putin is scared of us, can you imagine? Scared of girls. The most important dictator, Putin, is really afraid of people.”

She added: “More specifically, he’s afraid of Pussy Riot. Afraid of a bunch of young, positive, optimistic women unafraid to speak their minds.”

Last week, a Russian artist sewed his mouth together in support of three members of the group. Petr Pavlensky stood in front of St Petersburg’s Kazan Cathedral holding a banner reading ‘Pussy Riot act is a replay of a famous act by Jesus Christ’.

Franz Ferdinand and Red Hot Chili Peppers have also voiced support for the band at gigs in Moscow.

Pussy Riot face up to seven years in jail on hooliganism charges after they were arrested following an impromptu performance at Moscow’s Christ The Saviour Cathedral, where they sang a song called ‘Holy Shit’ as a protest against the Orthodox Christian church’s alleged support for Putin. Although Putin regained power in the last Russian election, the verdict has drawn accusations of fraud by his competitors.

Shortly before their arrest, members of Pussy Riot spoke to NME, calling Putin’s reaction to their church protest “childish”. “We knew what the political situation was but now we’re personally feeling the full force of Putin’s Kafka-esque machine,” they said. “The state’s policy is based on a minimum of critical thinking and on a maximum of spite, and a desire to get even with those who don’t please it.”

Amnesty International have called for the release of the band members, arguing that they are “prisoners of conscience”.