MOSCOW — The dozen die-hard Communists on trial for treason in August, 1991, stepped up attacks on their accusers Thursday, demanding that the entire team of prosecutors be dismissed for bias, leaks and misconduct.
As they left the courthouse after the second day of the trial, the coup leaders flashed the V-for-victory symbol and signed autographs for cheering fans in a show of hard-line hubris.
"People have finally understood that the democrats are the traitors to the nation," said one defendant, Vasily A. Starodubtsev.
Thinner and grayer but unrepentant after a year in jail, the alleged traitors have turned the first two days of their trial into a political attack on President Boris N. Yeltsin, Prosecutor General Valentin G. Stepankov and the Supreme Court itself.
The 12 are accused of treason for placing Mikhail S. Gorbachev under house arrest and seizing power Aug. 18-21, 1991, in an attempt to preserve the Soviet Union under Communist rule. Ironically, the failed coup accelerated the country's breakup.
If the defendants are convicted, they could face the death penalty.
Outside the courthouse Thursday, police barricades held back 50 to 100 pro-Communist demonstrators who waved red flags and chanted "Freedom!" as the accused conspirators arrived and departed. "Don't worry, we're with you!" one woman shouted.