Pussy Riot Member Goes on Prison Hunger Strike

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
 

MOSCOW – Pussy Riot’s Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has gone on hunger strike in protest against cruel prison conditions and an alleged threat to her life from prison officials.

“I refuse to participate in the camp’s slave labor until the prison’s authorities begin to abide the law and treat female convicts like humans rather than like cattle,” she said in a letter quoted by the Russian news website Lenta.ru.

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In the letter, Tolokonnikova, 23, who is serving a two-year sentence for her participation in the anti-Putin “punk prayer” at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012, painted a macabre picture of her life at a correctional facility in the Republic of Mordovia, some 300 miles southeast of Moscow.

Tolokonnikova alleged that inmates are forced to work for 17 hours a day, with only four hours of sleep; are deprived of toilet access, washing facilities and food; and are subjected to beatings sanctioned by prison authorities on a regular basis.

Irina Khrunova, Tolokonnikova’s lawyer, confirmed to the Russian media that her client was on hunger strike, adding that Tolokonnikova had also filed an official complaint to the Investigative Committee about an incident in which the prison’s deputy director allegedly made a threat against Tolokonnikova’s life after she demanded fair working conditions.

When that information was made public on Sept. 23, Tolokonnikova was transferred to lockup, which is considered “the safest place” in the prison, Gennady Morozov, head of Mordovia’s public watchdog commission, was quoted as saying by the Russian wire service Interfax.

Last summer, parole applications by Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, another Pussy Riot member serving a two-year sentence, were denied. Both are supposed to be released in April 2014. The feminist punk band’s third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was released on probation last October.

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