Imprisoned Russian Oligarch Defends Pussy Riot, Putin Urges ‘Fair, Well-Rounded Ruling’

149519444 Imprisoned Russian Oligarch Defends Pussy Riot, Putin Urges Fair, Well Rounded Ruling

Alyokhina and Samutsevich in court on July 30. (Courtesy Andrey Smirnov/AFP/Getty Images)

As the trial of three women who are members of the punk group Pussy Riot winds down in Moscow, the jailed former billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky has come to their defense, saying that the conditions they are under amount to torture and urging leniency. Reuters has that report.

The women—Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova—are on trial for storming Moscow’s central Orthodox cathedral and shouting a “punk prayer” in which they asked God to rid the nation of president Vladimir Putin. They face up to seven years in prison. Mr. Khodorkovsky, who was arrested in 2003 on tax and fraud changes that some believe were politically motivated (he was a rival of Mr. Putin), likened the trial to ones conducted by “medieval inquisitors,” noting that the women are kept in a cage made of glass and metal in the courtroom. (He was tried in the same chamber.)

For his part, Mr. Putin recently stated that Pussy Riot’s act “was no good,” according to the Associated Press, but urged some form of leniency on the part of the Russian court. According to the wire service, he said, “I don’t think that a verdict should be very severe… I hope that the court will make a fair, well-founded ruling.”

The lawyers defending the Pussy Riot members say that a verdict could be delivered as soon as this week.