Moscow : Members of the all-female Russian punk group Pussy Riot - who face up to seven years behind bars over an anti-Putin protest - Wednesday went on hunger strike after what their legal team said was a court ruling reminiscent of Stalin-era repression.
"I am declaring a hunger strike, because this is unlawful," suspect Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, told a packed Moscow courtroom after a judge had ruled to drastically reduce the time for the defence team to study case materials. The ruling obliges the defence to finish their study of the materials by July 9. Lawyers had asked to be given until Sep 1.
Suspects Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, were detained in March after five masked members of Pussy Riot performed a song in Moscow s largest cathedral against what they said was church support for Vladimir Putin s presidential election campaign. The song, entitled "Holy S**t," featured the lyrics "Virgin Mary, drive Putin out!" and came amid unprecedented protests against the 12-year rule of the former KGB officer.
The suspects admit being part of the Pussy Riot group, but say they did not take part in the protest in the landmark Christ the Savior cathedral. Putin called the protest "unpleasant."
The group members have been charged with hooliganism as part of an organized group. Police said around a dozen people were detained as Pussy Riot supporters rallied outside the courtroom in scenes that have become common during court hearings into what has rapidly become one of the most politically charged and divisive legal cases in modern Russia.
Defence Lawyer Violeta Volkova called the ruling a "farce" and accused investigators and the state prosecutor of falsifying documents, an allegation met with silence by a federal prosecutor present at the hearing.
Pussy Riot first hit the headlines in January, when they raced through a musical diatribe against Putin on a snowy Red Square, calling for "Revolt in Russia!" and chanting "Putin s got scared" before being detained by police.