Pussy Riot member launches hunger strike to protest prison conditions

[JURIST] A member of the Russian feminist rock group Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, launched a hunger strike [letter] Monday in protest of living conditions and death threats from the deputy head of the prison in which she is serving her two-year sentence. Tolokonnikova wrote an open letter [Guardian report] detailing life inside the prison colony, stating that the prisoners work up to 17 hours a day and get four hours of sleep per night. She wrote that she complained to the deputy head of the prison and received a veiled threat against her life, but so far she has not encountered any physical violence because her international fame protects her. Tolokonnikova announced that she will continue the hunger strike until her concerns have been addressed. A representative of the Mordovia prison system denied all of Tolokonnikova's allegations.

The imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot has generated significant international attention. In August Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against her former defense lawyer, Violetta Volkova, for making and posting defamatory statements about her in the press and on social networking sites during the trial of other Pussy Riot members. A month prior, a regional court in Russia denied an appeal [JURIST report] by Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina. Alekhina and Tolokonnikova [JURIST reports] had their paroles denied in May. Samutsevich was released last October. Alekhina, Samutsevic and Tolokonnikova, were sentenced [JURIST report] to two years in prison for "hooliganism" following the band's February 2012 performance of a protest song titled "Mother of God drive Putin away." The song was performed at a sacred Russian Orthodox Church, Christ the Savior Cathedral, in Moscow, and the court held that the performance was driven by religious hatred. The Pussy Riot case has generated much criticism and debate [JURIST op-eds] among scholars.

 

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