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Pussy Riot inmate claims Russian prison took away water

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, September 27, 2013 8:54 EDT
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Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova waits in the defendant's cage at a courthouse (AFP)
 
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Jailed Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on Friday accused Russian prison officers of cutting off her drinking water on the fifth day of a hunger strike — a move the prison service denies.

Tolokonnikova began a hunger strike at her penal colony in central Russia’s Mordovia region in protest at prisoners being forced to work excessive hours and being treated like “slaves.”

In a message sent to AFP by her husband, activist Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova said that a prison guard told her he was ordered to take away all her drinking water, and then a prisoner who fulfils the functions of an attendant removed the bottles.

“He grabbed my arms and painfully squeezed my shoulders, stopping me from moving,” she said.

“At that moment, prisoner Nevecherya removed all my drinking water standing in the punishment cell in bottles.”

“Without water a person dies in a few days during a hunger strike,” she said.

The 23-year-old mother of a young daughter is serving a two-year sentence for a punk protest in a Moscow cathedral last year.

The prison service denied her claim, saying on its website that it had replaced her cold drinking water with warm boiled water on medical advice.

In a growing standoff, Tolokonnikova said that video camera footage would prove the first use of force against her in the penal colony.

The prison service in Mordovia region responded by posting a YouTube video titled “Tolokonnikova’s provocation”, which shows what it says is Tolokonnikova’s cell.

The prison service said the footage was filmed by a video camera fixed to a prison officer’s uniform. It said it had handed the video to law enforcement authorities.

The video shows women prisoners in headscarves taking food into a cell. One is shown bringing out an empty water container after apparently pouring out its contents inside the cell.

A dark-haired woman can briefly be seen lying in bed.

Tolokonnikova in a letter released Monday accused her penal colony of forcing women prisoners to work up to 17-hour days in a sewing workshop.

She also said the colony’s deputy chief had hinted she could be killed by other prisoners in revenge if they were given shorter working hours and so failed to meet targets.

The prison service said in a statement that Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike after threatening to go public on prison conditions unless she was transferred to different work.

She said in another letter published Tuesday that she had been moved to a bitterly cold isolation cell, while the prison service called it adequately comfortable.

The video posted by the prison service can be seen on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AvUsOVk6Xk

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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