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Imprisoned Russian Pussy Riot Member Declares Hunger Strike

Pussy Riot - A Controversy in Russia and Around the Globe
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Protest over being denied personal access to parole hearing

MOSCOW – Maria Alekhina, one of the two remaining imprisoned members of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, has gone on hunger strike after being denied permission to attend a parole hearing in person.

Alekhina, 24, was due for a parole hearing Wednesday but forbid her lawyer from attending when told she would not be allowed to attend.

She objected that the regional court in Berizniki is just across the road from the penal colony in the Urals where she is serving a two year prison term for hooliganism over the band's anti-Putin 'punk-prayer' in Russia's main Orthodox cathedral last year.

“I’m declaring a hunger strike and order my defense lawyers not to take part in this court trial,” Alekhina said.

Court officials in the case said Alekhina's presence was not required and she could consult with her lawyer via video link. They postponed the hearing until Thursday after Alekhina's surprise intervention – which was made via the video-link to which she objects.

Observers say her outburst was prompted by humiliation.

Pavel Chikov, head of human rights body Agora, said denying Alekhina the right to appear in person at a court so closer to where she is serving her sentence was an affront to her dignity.

Alekhina's was appeal was launched last month seven months into her sentence. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova --who is also serving a two-year sentence -- was denied parole last month. The third convicted activist, Ekaterina Samutsevich, was released on probation in October last year.

The Pussy Riot case has become an international cause since the three young women were jailed last year. Madonna, Paul McCartney and other musicians and artists worldwide decried the sentences.

In January HBO picked up U.S TV rights to Pussy Riot -- A Punk Prayer, a documentary about the group and its political activities by British filmmaker Mike Lerner and Russian Maxim Pozdorovkin that screened at Sundance.