Moscow, January 21, Interfax - A lawyer has expressed suspicion that there are string indications that the release of one of the three convicted members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band was part of a "bargain" between her and the prosecution and represented "betrayal of common interests."
Correspondence between the two other convicts, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, which they authorized their attorneys to publish, confirms suspicions that Yekaterina Samutsevich struck a deal with the prosecution, Violetta Volkova, a former defense lawyer for the Pussy Riot defendants, told Interfax.
"One can only make guesses about the true nature of the bargain, but Samutsevich did change her position, saying that the action at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior wasn't political and that there was a crime though she wasn't to blame for it," Volkova said.
The lawyer posted in her blog the text of handwritten letters of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina to each other in which they discussed Samutsevich's volte-face.
"In all her interviews, Samutsevich said she wasn't repentant but when the appeal against the sentence was being considered she said the opposite. Afterwards she was mounting attacks on the lawyers, on our reputation: we were accused of crimes - stealing money, stealing the brand name, - though she didn't go as far as appealing to law enforcement. It was all sudden and brazen," Volkova said.
"All that we did we did professionally. The change of position, namely confession to a crime, is a huge present to the prosecution because until then all three young women had denied being guilty of a crime. This may be why they are in prison now. I'm glad that Katya is out, but there's betrayal of common interests behind this," the lawyer said.
Volkova expressed suspicion that Samutsevich's decision to ask for another defense lawyer was part of a scheme devised by the prosecution. Namely, the prosecution might specially have put up a woman in her cell who talked her into asking for another attorney.
Volkova said Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina would most likely have been able to take Samutseich's route but opted against it.
"Samutsevich now has [travel] restrictions and says she has no plans to stay in the band. She said she's getting ready to take foreign citizenship," Volkova said.
Another Pussy Riot lawyer, Mark Feigin, told Interfax the allegations that Pussy Riot's lawyers stole the band's brand name were senseless.
Interfax has been unable to obtain comments from Samutsevich. Nor has her new lawyer, Irina Khrunova, been available for comments.
The source of the three women's conviction was a performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior on February 21 in which the musicians, with balaclavas covering their faces, sang a rock-style prayer, asking the Virgin Mary to deliver Russia from Vladimir Putin, who was then running for president.
They were arrested and charged with "hooliganism," but protested their innocence, claiming that the performance was a political act and that they did not want to offend anyone's religious feelings.
On August 17, they were sentenced to two years in prison. Their lawyers appealed the sentences, arguing that the performance had not been criminal or hatred-motivated. On October 10, the Moscow City Court upheld the sentences of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina but released Samutsevich.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sent to different prisons.