Three members of a Russian feminist activist group who are facing trial for their performance of a protest song in a Russian Orthodox church asked the judge in their case on Monday to recuse herself, saying her decisions were politically motivated. Judge Marina Syrova declined to hear [AP report] the defense motion for her recusal and moved forward with the trial. The defense had previously moved for the Judge's recusal [RAPSI report] last week. The three women have been charged with "hooliganism" [RAPSI materials] for their performance of a song, which sparked public outrage after a video of the performance was posted online. Some have criticized the trial as being politically motivated, saying it is a strategy by Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] to discredit his opposition.
Rights groups and political activists in Russia have expressed concern over other recently passed laws they say are aimed at restricting civil rights. Last week Putin signed a bill into the law that re-criminalizes slander and libel [JURIST report] in the country. Last month, Putin signed [JURIST report] into law a bill that labels all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that receive foreign funding as "foreign agents" and requires them to register with the Justice Ministry. Opponents of this new law say that its purpose is to curb free speech [RFE/RL report] and limit information available to the public. Earlier this month, Russian politicians asked [JURIST report] the country's constitutional court to review a recently passed law that increases penalties against protesters who violate regulations. The State Duma also recently approved a bill regulating Internet use that some fear the government will use to oppress speech. In May Russia also for the first time convicted a gay rights activist [JURIST report] under a law prohibiting the spread of "homosexual propaganda" to minors, which caused concern from human rights groups.