Pussy Riot Members Launch Prisoners-Rights NGO

Maria Alyokhina (left) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
Maria Alyokhina (left) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova
 AP Photo/Axel Schmidt

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina have launched Zona Prava (Law Zone), a non-governmental organization focused on the protection of prisoners' rights.

The two women, who served almost two years in prison for the anti-Putin "punk prayer" at Moscow's Christ the Savior cathedral in February 2012 and were released late last year under an amnesty bill, presented the new organization today at a press conference in Saransk, the capital of Mordovia, 500 km southeast of Moscow.

“In our country, as long as cases of prisoners' rights' violation take place, we are sure that there will be a need for our organization,” Tolokonnikova said at the press conference.

Tolokonnikova served most of her sentence in a Mordovian prison and went on hunger strike twice, protesting against dismal conditions and demanding to be transferred to another prison following alleged threats from the prison's deputy head. She was eventually moved to another prison but promised upon her release last December to deal with the situation in the Mordovian prison. Meanwhile, the prison's deputy head is suing Tolokonnikova for libel, and the case is set to be heard in early April.

At the Saransk press conference, the two Pussy Riot members introduced the organization's head, Vladimir Rubashny, formerly a psychologist in the penitentiary system.

Zona Prava is supported by the Cinema for Peace Initiative and Foundation, which will travel with Pussy Riot to the United States next month to introduce the new NGO to the creative community in New York and Los Angeles, where director Roland Emmerich will host a dinner in honor of the two artists, Cinema for Peace said in a press release.

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