Claws out as Pussy Riot split turns sour

The jailed members of the punk group Pussy Riot have parted company with their lawyers in a rancorous split that has seen the legal team claim that the freed member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, is a Kremlin collaborator, while she has claimed the lawyers are trying to profit from the band's notoriety.

The trio burst into Moscow's biggest cathedral in February wearing bright balaclavas and mimed a song entitled Virgin Mary, kick out Putin. Over the northern summer, Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" and jailed for two years.

They have become renowned across the world, and Samutsevich says that the wife of one of the lawyers had registered "Pussy Riot" as a trademark in the hope of cashing in on the group's notoriety. She also accused the lawyers of taking her passport and keys and not returning them.

Samutsevich had already parted company with her initial lawyers after the first verdict. At an appeal hearing, she announced unexpectedly that she wanted to change lawyers, and made a new argument that she had not actually been properly involved in the stunt. As a result, she was freed, while Tolokonnikova and Alekhina had their two-year sentences kept in force.

This week, it became clear that the other two women were also parting company with the lawyers. Initially, one of the lawyers, Nikolai Polozov, said that he and two colleagues were leaving the case by mutual agreement with their clients, because the lawyers have developed too much of a media profile and were harming the two women in prison. The other two women will now be represented by Irina Khrunova, Samutsevich's lawyer during the appeal.

- Independent

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