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Jailed Russian Pussy Riot Member Hospitalized a Week Into Hunger Strike

Pussy Riot Behind Glass Trial - H 2012
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Maria Alekhina is refusing food after being denied parole and claiming she was mistreated by prison authorities.

A member of jailed Russian protest band Pussy Riot has been admitted to a prison hospital one week after going on a hunger strike in response to being denied admittance to a parole hearing.

Maria Alekhina, 24, was denied parole at a hearing last Thursday, at which judges criticized her for showing no signs of repentance over last year's "punk prayer" that the group performed in Russia's main Orthodox cathedral, Christ the Savior, in Moscow, and for failing to cooperate with prison authorities.

STORY: Russian Court Denies Parole to Jailed Pussy Riot Member

Alekhina and two other members of the group were imprisoned for two years in August 2012 after being convicted on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” in relation to the February 2012 incident. One member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, received a suspended sentence. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was denied parole earlier this year, like Alekhina, remains behind bars in a prison colony.

Alekhina, whose protest is over what she terms discrimination by prison authorities, has captured international attention.

Sir Paul McCartney and Peter Gabriel both raised her case with Russian authorities last week, pleading with them to release her.

In a handwritten note, McCartney wrote: “My personal belief is that further incarceration for Maria will be harmful for her and the situation as a whole, which is being watched by people all over the world.

“In the great tradition of fair-mindedness, which the Russian people -- many of whom are my friends -- are famous for, I believe that your granting this request would send a very positive message to all the people who have followed this case.”

STORY: Imprisoned Russian Pussy Riot Member Declares Hunger Strike

Last year's high-profile court case won the three young women international support from music and entertainment industry giants, including Madonna, who called for their release during a gig in St Petersburg.

Alekhina's hospitalization was revealed Tuesday in a tweet sent by Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband.

Alekhina says her hunger strike is not simply about being denied a personal hearing by the parole board, which meets in a court very close to her prison cell in the city of Berezniki, near Perm. Authorities say she can make her case personally via video link.

In a statement released through her lawyer, she said she was locked up most of the time, constantly escorted and denied timely medical attention. Prison authorities were also turning other inmates against her, she said. 

“I see no other way of bringing pressure on the administration to negotiate other than starving myself,” she said. “I am deprived of [telephone] calls without cause.”

Last week Alekhina's mother, Natalia, struck out at the authorities. After listening to a live feed of the parole hearing on Radio Svoboda, she said: “This looked not like a court hearing but like arm-twisting.”