Monday, December 22, 2014


Russia

Jailed Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike In Russia

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova attends a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk in July.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova attends a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk in July.
By RFE/RL
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a jailed member of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, has started a hunger strike, saying the prison administration was threatening to kill her.

In a letter to the media, Tolokonnikova says she began the hunger strike to protest death threats by prison employees and fellow inmates, whom she accused of collaborating with the administration at the labor penal colony in Mordovia where she is serving her sentence.

Tolokonnikova's letter was made public by her husband, Pyotr Verzilov, on September 23. It was also sent to Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, Russia's Investigative Committee, and the federal agency overseeing Russia's penitentiary system.

In the letter, Tolokonnikova also accuses prison officials of abusing inmates.

She says female inmates in the penitentiary are forced to work 16-17 hours a day, including weekends, and sleep only four hours a day.

She says that female prisoners who are deemed to have violated the rules are often beaten and denied food, water, and the use of toilet.

The 23-year-old mother, who was jailed for staging a performance against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral, says she will refuse food and stop her work at a sewing workshop until she is transferred to another prison camp.

She says she believes "this is the only possible way for me out of this situation."

She says any attempts to complain lead to more abuse, adding, "The Mordovia inmates are afraid of their own shadows."

Tolokonnikova and fellow Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina are serving two-year prison sentences after being convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

They, along with a third member of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, were arrested last year after performing what they called a "punk prayer" against  Putin at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow in February 2012.

Samutsevich was also convicted and received a suspended two-year sentence.

The sentences were condemned by Western governments and rights groups as disproportionate.

With reporting by Lenta.ru, Interfax, and AFP

Most Popular