Member of feminist rock group Pussy Riot denied parole

[JURIST] A Russian court on Thursday denied parole for Maria Alekhina, a member of the feminist rock band Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Band members Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced [JURIST report] to two years in prison for "hooliganism," characterized by the court as driven by religious hatred, in connection to the band's February 2012 "guerrilla performance" of a protest song at the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral [official website], a space maintained to be sacred to the Russian Orthodox Church. In denying Alekhina parole, the court accepted the prosecutors' claim [AP report] that Alekhina has systematically disobeyed prison authorities and failed to repent for her crime. After being barred from the court hearing, Alekhina went on a hunger strike on Wednesday and ordered her defense not to participate. The court had previously denied [JURIST report] Alekhina a sentencing deferral, despite her having a young child.

The imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot sparked an international outcry against the Russian political and judicial system. Last month a Russian court denied parole [JURIST report] for Tolokonnikova, who had requested it so that she could look after her young daughter. In February the band filed a complaint [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] challenging their conviction. They contend that their conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. In January a court denied [JURIST report] the band's appeal of an Internet ban on their videos. The court ruled that the band's videos questioning the role of religion in Russian government was "extremist" and President Vladimir Putin argued that the ban is protecting the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox population. In October Alekhina and Tolokonnikova were transferred to separate regional prisons [JURIST report] generally reserved for dangerous criminals to serve their two-year sentences. Earlier in October Samutsevich was freed on appeal [JURIST report] because she did not actually participate in the protest song, and she vowed to take the band's case to the ECHR on charges that the Russian government had illegally detained them and also violated the rock group's right to free speech.

 

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