Russian authorities must investigate jailed Pussy Riot member's abuse allegations

‘We are concerned this could be yet another punishment for demanding … her own rights’ - Sergei Nikitin

The Russian prison authorities’ decision to move an imprisoned member of the punk band Pussy Riot to solitary confinement after she complained about prison conditions is yet another sign of suppression of any form of free speech in the country, Amnesty International has said.

The decision came after Nadezhda Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike and wrote an open letter describing the abuses in her prison colony in the Russian republic of Mordovia, including inmates being forced to work extremely long hours in “slave-like” conditions. Tolokonnikova also alleged that she has received death threats from a senior prison official and later from some inmates.

The prison authorities have denied Tolokonnikova’s allegations of abuse and have also claimed that the conditions in her solitary cell are better than in a shared one. However, Tolokonnikova has told her lawyer that she is held in freezing conditions, with access to cold water only and in very dim light. She also said internal prison rules prevent her from sitting on her bed during the day.

Amnesty International’s Moscow Office Director Sergei Nikitin said:
 
“The prison administration claimed that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had been placed in isolation for her own protection, but we are concerned this could be yet another punishment for demanding that her own rights and the rights of other inmates are respected.

“What the authorities should do is investigate the allegations she made.

“The case against members of the band Pussy Riot has been consistently outrageous from start to finish, and sought nothing other than to undermine the band members’ right to freedom of expression.

“The Russian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release the activists and quash all charges against them.”

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and another member of Pussy Riot - Maria Alekhina - are serving two-year sentences after they were convicted of charges of “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” in relation to the performance of a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. Maria Alekhina is serving her sentence in a penal colony in Nizhnii Novgorod. The sentence against a third Pussy Riot member - Ekaterina Samutsevich - was suspended on appeal last October. However, she too had spent many months in detention while awaiting trial.
 

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