EU expresses growing concern over Pussy Riot Moscow trial
(BRUSSELS) - The European Union expressed mounting worry Tuesday over the trial of Russian girl-band Pussy Riot, whose members face years behind bars for a church protest against Vladimir Putin.
In a case that has stirred Western pop stars including Madonna and polarised the Russian Orthodox country, prosecutors have sought three years in jail for the three twenty-something members, two of whom are mothers.
Detained in March, they stand charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred after asking the Virgin Mary to oust Putin in a musical "punk prayer" ahead of his presidential election win.
One of the band's lawyers announced a plan on Tuesday to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
"The EU is concerned about the reported irregularities related to this case since the group members were arrested in March, in particular the grounds for and conditions of their pre-detention," said a spokesman for the top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton.
The official said the trial, in the same Moscow court where former Yukos oil chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky underwent a controversial trial for tax evasion in 2010, was "accelerated in a way that seems at variance with due process."
EU diplomats are attending the hearings and vowing to keep a close eye on its progress, the spokesman said.
"We are also worried by the reports of increasing intimidation, with pressure put on lawyers, on journalists and on possible witnesses," he said.
"The EU calls on Russia to respect its international obligations, notably the right of fair trial."
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