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Pussy Riot members complain of mistreatment

The three members of a Russian punk rock band have complained of mistreatment while in custody. The members of Pussy Riot are on trial on charges of hooliganism over a high-profile protest in a Moscow cathedral.

Members of a Russian all-women punk band standing trial in a Moscow court say they are being mistreated while in custody.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, are facing charges of “hooliganism” in connection with a high-profile protest against this year's presidential election, in which Vladimir Putin won a third term. The three women entered Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral and sang a song from the altar in which they called on God to "rid Russia of Putin."

If convicted, they could face up to seven years in jail. All three deny the charges.

During Wednesday's proceedings, Alekhina suffered a dizzy spell and was given injections by a doctor to raise her blood-sugar level.

Tolokonnikova told the court on the third day of their trial that their treatment while in custody had left them in no fit state to take part in the proceedings.

"We are in a semi-conscious state. We are practically not getting any sleep. Today we did not sleep at all," she said. "We can sit here but we cannot fully participate."

Long hearings

Defense lawyers have repeatedly complained to the presiding judge in the case that the women are being woken up at 5:00 a.m. to attend the hearings and are not being given food for up to 12 hours at a time.

"The trial is being conducted in an outrageous way," one of their defense lawyers, Violetta Volkova told reporters. "The court sessions are lasting 11 hours a day, and our clients are not being allowed to eat or sleep adequately."

She added that as the hearings were lasting late into the night, the women weren't getting back to their cells until after midnight.

Volkova also complained about the care provided to Alekhina when she fell ill earlier in the day, saying the doctors had “merely raised her blood sugar levels, when in fact what she needs is an adequate meal and enough sleep."

Court officials though, said all three women had been examined by doctors and were ruled fit to stand trial.

Critics both in and outside of Russia claim the trial is part of a Kremlin campaign to silence dissent.

pfd/ng (Reuters, dpa, AFP)