Miriam Elder in Moscow 

Pussy Riot profile: Maria Alyokhina

Unofficial spokeswoman for Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina has challenged witnesses and remains defiant over the charges
  
  

Maria Alyokhina, 24, has emerged as the unofficial spokeswoman of Pussy Riot, making impassioned speeches and conducting sharp questioning of witnesses from inside the glass cage where she had been tried with her bandmates.

She spent the trial studying witness testimony and reading a pamphlet on Russia's criminal code, and took to wearing glasses as the trial went on, something her lawyers said was a sign of fatigue.

Her anger at what Pussy Riot's lawyers have called a show trial was visible from day one. Asked if she understood the charges levied against her – hooliganism motivated by religious hatred – Alyokhina was defiant.

"I don't understand the ideological side of the question," she said, pausing for dramatic effect as she stared down the judge from behind the glass. "I don't understand on what basis you're making statements about my motivations." Another dramatic pause. "And I don't understand why I'm not allowed to explain this." YouTube video of the speech went viral and made her a star.

Alyokhina was in her fourth year at Moscow's Institute of Journalism and Creative Writing when she was arrested in March. She had done volunteer work with ill children and was an activist with Greenpeace Russia. She is the mother of a young child, Filipp.

Often caustic as the trial descended into absurdity, Alyokhina was all smiles when her institute's deputy rector testified in defence of her character – her main questions revolved around knowing what the school's professors thought of her poetry.

Alyokhina summarised the main point of the trial in a letter read to the court by her lawyer, Violetta Volkova, as an opening statement: "I thought the church loved all its children, but it seems the church loves only those children who believe in Putin."

 

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