Jailed Pussy Riot member complains of 'death threats'

MOSCOW Thu Jan 24, 2013 1:23am IST

A member of the female punk band ''Pussy Riot'' Maria Alyokhina listens to the verdict inside a defendants' box during a court hearing in Berezniki in Perm region, near the Ural mountains, January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

A member of the female punk band ''Pussy Riot'' Maria Alyokhina listens to the verdict inside a defendants' box during a court hearing in Berezniki in Perm region, near the Ural mountains, January 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

Related Topics

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One of two jailed Pussy Riot members said she received death threats and complained of abuse at a prison colony where she is serving a two-year sentence for a punk protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

But Maria Alyokhina and fellow group member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said they did not regret the protest, despite describing harsh prison conditions in interviews published on Wednesday by the opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

Alyokhina, 24, who lost an appeal this month to have her sentence deferred to care for her five-year-old son, said she was transferred to solitary confinement in November after being threatened by inmates she suspects of acting on the orders of prison officials.

"(They said) if you stay in this unit - that's the end of you... Human rights are grossly violated here," said Alyokhina, who is being held at a penal colony in the Urals Mountains region of Perm.

"What is the most difficult thing? Coming to understand how this system works, how it creates a slave mentality," she said.

"Ignorance, cowardice, betrayal, denunciation is the norm."

Tolokonnikova, 23, who also has a young child and is jailed in the central Russian region of Mordovia, renown for its legacy of Soviet-era prison camps, said she has not been victim of the same pressure as Alyokhina but described pitiless conditions of forced labour.

Like many female inmates in Russia, she works to fulfil quotas for sewing padded winter jackets, earning a salary of 350 roubles per month, she said.

Both women, who were inspired by leftist philosophy to form the radical punk performance art group, complained of not having enough time for and access to books in jail.

Three Pussy Riot members - who until their arrest hid their identities and that of other band mates behind trademark coloured balaclavas at impromptu street performances - were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

One of the three was released on appeal with a suspended sentence but Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are less than halfway through their prison terms, which are counted from their arrests in March 2012.

'HEARTFELT CRY'

Pussy Riot's raucous "punk prayer", the women flashing legs clad in brightly-coloured tights and brandishing an electric guitar on the altar, was criticised by Putin and cast by the Russian Orthodox Church as part of a concerted attack on the country's main faith.

The two jailed women complained that their message, part of a wave of opposition protests against Putin's decision to return for a third Kremlin term since 2000, has been twisted by Russian media.

"Russian state propaganda presented us as blasphemers, as hooligans and so on, but in reality it was an ironic and funny action, though still a desperate one," said Tolokonnikova.

"It was, so to speak, a political heartfelt cry which was still made in an ironic and funny manner."

Alyokhina raged against what she said was the low level of public debate in Russia, where the Kremlin has a near monopoly over federal television - the main source of news for Russians.

"There were many who were incredulous, who didn't understand why we are not happy with Putin," she told Novaya Gazeta.

"One girl expressed a very interesting point of view that Putin looks great on TV, so why are we not happy with him? ... That's the level of a dialogue, and it is really sad."

(Reporting By Alissa de Carbonnel)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Gaza Conflict

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Special Report

Special Report

Inside Xi Jinping's purge of China's oil mandarins.  Full Article 

Ferry Tragedy

Ferry Tragedy

S.Korea ferry businessman's cause of death impossible to decide - agency.  Full Article 

Food Scandal

Food Scandal

McDonald's takes chicken nuggets off menu in Hong Kong amid food scare.  Full Article 

Plane Crash

Plane Crash

Wreckage of Air Algerie plane carrying 116 people found in Mali.  Full Article 

Health Crisis

Health Crisis

Myanmar Muslims in remote Rakhine suffer worsening health crisis.  Full Article 

Afghan Election

Afghan Election

Afghan vote recount moves at snail's pace, rival sides far apart.  Full Article 

Iraq Government

Iraq Government

Iraq elects president as Ban urges unity to save nation.  Full Article 

MH17 Crash

MH17 Crash

Investigators find no evidence of MH17 black box tampering  Full Article 

Freedom at Last

Freedom at Last

Death row Christian woman flies out of Sudan, meets Pope.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage