Friday, November 28, 2014


Russia

Jailed Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike, Parole Hearing Adjourned

Jailed Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina
Jailed Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina
By RFE/RL's Russian Service
BEREZNIKI, Russia -- A parole hearing in the Russian town of Berezniki has been adjourned until May 23 after a jailed member of the all-female opposition group Pussy Riot refused to continue taking part via video-link. 

At the hearing on May 22, the court rejected Maria Alyokhina's requests to be physically present and to have the judge and the prosecutor replaced.

Alyokhina, who spoke to the Berezniki court from her prison in the Perm region, announced that she was starting a hunger strike.

Her lawyer, Irina Khrunova, told journalists that there were many procedural violations in the parole hearing.

"Masha [Alyokhina] and I agreed [before the parole hearing] that if the court did not allow her to be brought to the courtroom, then she would refuse to participate in the hearings," she said.

Khrunova indicated that Alyokhina would also not participate in the hearing on May 23.

"She very much wanted to appear in court; she wanted to tell the court about her situation and why she thought she deserved to be released on parole, but since the court refused to hear her personally, she thought she didn't need to continue [participation]," he said.

Alyokhina and another Pussy Riot member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are serving two-year prison sentences after being convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

Alyokhina, Tolokonnikova, and a third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested in February 2012 after staging a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral.

Samutsevich also received a two-year prison sentence but was later released on probation.

Tolokonnikova's parole request was denied last month by a court in the Russian republic of Mordovia, where she is serving her prison sentence. 

Prison Reprimands

One of the major impediments to Alyokhina's early release may be a reprimand she received while serving her prison term.

In all, Alyokhina has received four reprimands for violating the penitentiary's internal rules.

Alyokhina has appealed against the reprimands and three of them were eventually dismissed, with the last of them being dismissed by a court on May 20.

Khrunova told journalists that her client has no means other than a hunger strike to defend her rights.

"In general, an inmate has lots of duties but very few rights in a Russian prison," she said. "So, [a hunger strike] was Masha's reaction to the court's decision. This was her own decision. She made the decision that only a hunger strike could help her draw attention to the violations of prisoners' rights."

The jail sentences for Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have been widely criticized by the United States, the European Union, and many top entertainers.

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