The trial of Russian punk rockers Pussy Riot began yesterday (July 30, 2012) in their home country, as the full extent of president Vladimir Putin's increased discipline against opposers to his leadership comes under scrutiny. The Guardian reports that the three female musicians turned up to the Christ The Saviour cathedral in Moscow in March and sang a song to the Virgin Mary, which called on her to throw Putin out of rule. They have been custody ever since, with the trio accused of hooliganism caused by "religious hatred"; the women -Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 - have pleaded not guilty, though they should perhaps be worried - fewer than 1% of trials in Russia that go to verdict end in a not guilty verdict.
The three looked calm and collected in their box in the court as the trial got underway, but the scale of the case could be much bigger than they realised as it's the first that has really caught the world's attention at large. Human rights activists and musicians alike are worrying that - should the band be found guilty - it will say a lot about Putin's tolerance of dissonance against him. The case will also, according to experts, show the power of the Russian Orthodox church, who have described the incident as blasphemy and part of a sinister anti-clerical campaign.