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Pussy Riot member requests parole during court hearing

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, July 24, 2013 7:25 EDT
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Maria Alyokhina (left) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova -- the two jailed members of Russian punk band 'Pussy Riot' -- sit in a glass-walled cage during their appeals hearing in Moscow on Oct. 10, 2012. File photo via AFP.
 
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One of the jailed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot on Wednesday asked again to be released on parole after serving almost a year in prison for a protest againt President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow church.

Maria Alyokhina, 25, appealed for parole as she spoke via videolink during a hearing at a regional court in Perm, an industrial city more than 1,100 kilometres (680 miles) east of Moscow, the RAPSI news agency reported.

Alyokhina is one of three members of Pussy Riot who were sentenced to two years in prison after they sung a “Punk Prayer” against the Russian Orthodox Church’s close ties with Putin in Moscow’s central Church of Christ the Saviour in February 2012.

Alyokhina and another bandmate were imprisoned, while the third woman was given a suspended sentence on appeal.

Their convictions on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred have been denounced as disproportionate by many liberal Russians and public figures around the world, from music legend Paul McCartney to Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 100 famous musicians including Madonna, Elton John and Sting signed an open letter, released on Monday, appealing for the women to be freed.

“While understanding the sensitivities of protesting in a place of worship, we ask that the Russian authorities review these harsh sentences, so that you may return to your children, your families and your lives,” stars wrote in the letter coordinated by rights group Amnesty International.

Alyokhina, who is the mother of a young son, has been incarcerated in Berezniki prison colony in the Perm region since the women were sentenced in August 2012.

Her earlier request for parole in May was turned down after a prison official said she was unenthusiastic about doing chores and did not repent for her crime.

Alyokhina went on hunger strike over the prison authorities’ refusal to allow her to attend the May hearing in person, instead transmitting her testimony via video link.

She had been expected to appear in person for Wednesday’s hearing after being transferred from her penal colony to a prison in the city of Perm, but again addressed the court via a video link.

The second jailed Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, is serving her sentence in a prison colony in the region of Mordovia some 500 kilometres (300 miles) southeast of Moscow and is due to attend a parole hearing in the regional capital of Saransk on Friday.

Tolokonnikova also had a parole request turned down in April because of reprimands issued in the colony and her refusal to repent.

The third Pussy Riot member to be convicted, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed on appeal with a suspended sentence after her lawyer argued she was grabbed by guards in the Moscow church before she could actually take part in the protest.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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