UPDATED October 10, 2012, 1:00PM EDT:
In a surprising turn of events during the Pussy Riot appeal trial today, one of the band members was set free, while the two-year sentences of the other two were upheld by the Moscow City Court.
The court reaffirmed the guilty verdict against all three women on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred," but freed Yekaterina Samutsevich. The three-judge panel accepted the argument by her newly hired lawyer, Irina V. Khrunova, that her role in the church protest was not parallel to that of the other two women, because she was seized and taken out of the cathedral before she had time to sing or jump around, according to the New York Times.
As the Times reports, however, the court failed to address the procedural problems with the initial trial:
The judges did not address the numerous concerns that the women and their defense lawyers raised in August — what they called the arbitrary disqualification of defense witnesses, the testimony by so-called victims who were not in the cathedral for the Pussy Riot stunt, the bizarre conflation of alleged moral offenses and violations of the state penal code.
Putin said the three women "got what they asked for," in a documentary that aired on Sunday.
The other two band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina, are headed to prison colonies, but their lawyers will continue to appeal, according to the Times, which also notes that the verdict is sure to "intensify, rather than quiet, any debate."
In a speech during the trial Tolokonnikova predicted the fallout from the Pussy Riot case in wider society: "What is happening now, what is happening during the third Putin presidential term — it unfortunately leads to growing instability," she said. "I will go away for one and a half years, and a civil war will erupt in the country, because Putin is doing everything to achieve it."
Here is blow-by-blow live text coverage of the trial from the Russian Legal Information Agency.
UPDATED October 1, 2012, 2:00PM EDT:
Pussy Riot's appeal trial, which was scheduled for today, has been postponed until October 10, after one of the women requested a new defense lawyer. The AP reports:
As the hearing began Monday, band member Yekaterina Samutsevich unexpectedly announced that she has fired her three lawyers over an unspecified disagreement. Samutsevich said she had found another lawyer but had not yet signed a contract. Her fellow band members said they supported Samutsevich's choice but would still retain the services of their lawyers.
Olga Mefodyeva, an analyst at the Center for Political Technologies, told the AP the decision may be a way to draw waning international attention to the trial again.
Pyotr Verzilov, the husband of band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, downplayed the move. The defense team says the women are "under tremendous pressure, with the government threatening to take away their children," and Verzilov says Samutsevich's decision "was simply caused by a change of mood," according to the AP.
The riot grrrls who walked into Christ the Savior cathedral on February 21st, screamed, danced and asked the Virgin Mary to “put Putin away,” are now locked up in a medieval castle-style detention center in Moscow. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison on August 17 on charges of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for their performance protest. An appeals trial is scheduled for October 1st, but no one is holding their breath. Instead, the Pussy Riot team is turning to the international community to try and put pressure on Putin.
The whole world, including Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev and Russian Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin, has condemned the absurd sentence. But that doesn’t matter, says Mark Feygin, one of the Pussy Riot defense attorneys, since, as Mother Jones' Sydney Brownstone reported, the verdict was basically phoned in by Putin. In court on Monday, the lawyers will point to the breaches of law that occured in Pussy Riot's initial trial, including barring key witnesses and experts from testifying and preventing defense lawyers from having confidential discussions with the three band members. Alisa Obraztsova, a legal assistant for the defense team, says the court may reduce the sentence by a few months, "just to show that the appeal is working. But we cannot be sure even in this."