Russia: Request for parole from Pussy Riot member rejected in court

30 April 2013

A court in the Russian region of Mordovia has denied a request for parole from 23-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, mother of a five-year-old and one of two jailed members of the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, reported Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty with quotes from Interfax, AFP, and Russia Today

Nadezhda in court

Judge Lidiya Yakovleva said in a district court in Zubova Polyana on 26 April 2013 that she agrred with the prison authorities’ assessment that releasing Tolokonnikova would be “premature.” She also added that the court found “the arguments of the defense unsound.”

The administration of the prison, Corrective Colony No 14, where the 23-year-old Tolokonnikova is jailed, had asked the court beforehand to reject the parole request.

Prison officials filed a statement saying she had been cited for prison rules violations and expressed no remorse.

Tolokonnikova, wearing a green prison garb, silently stood in her courtroom metal cage as the decision was read at the end of a daylong court session.

The judge announced her verdict after taking about an hour-and-a-half to deliberate and failing to give the defense a chance for a final argument.

The decision was met with some cries of “Shame!” from the audience, which included her husband and father, as well as many journalists and supporters who came from Moscow.

Tolokonnikova earlier told the court that she has “spent enough time in the prison camp… six months is time enough.”

Her lawyer Irina Khrunova argued that her five-year-old daughter, Gera, needed her mother.

Khrunova said, “She has a family, a child. Her daughter misses her mother. The family must be reunited as soon as possible to allow the child to develop properly.”

One of the arguments against her parole was her lack of participation in prison activities, such as the Miss Charm Prison Camp 14 beauty contest.

A second Pussy Riot member, Maria Alyokhina, is serving her term in the Perm region.

Both members are serving two-year prison terms after being convicted in August for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”

The convictions followed the group’s performance of a “punk prayer” at a Moscow cathedral protesting Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s close links with the Russian Orthodox Church.

A third member of the group who was convicted over the performance, Yekaterina Samutsevich, received a suspended sentence.

Photo: Courtesy of the Free Pussy Riot group on Facebook.

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty – 30 April 2013:
Court Denies Parole To Pussy Riot Member

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s intended closing statement

Here is the argument which imprisoned 23-year-old Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot wasn’t allowed to make at her parole hearing on 26 April 2013:

“ “Has the convict started down the road to rehabilitation?” This is the question asked when a request for parole is reviewed. I would also like us to ask the following question today: What is  this “road to rehabilitation”?
I am absolutely convinced that the only correct road is one on which a person is honest with others and with herself. I have stayed on this road and will not stray from it wherever life takes me. I insisted on this road while I was still on the outside, and I didn’t retreat from it in the Moscow pretrial detention facility. Nothing, not even the camps of Mordovia, where the Soviet-era authorities liked to send political prisoners, can teach me to betray the principle of honesty.
So I have not admitted and will not admit the guilt imputed to me by the Khamovniki district court’s verdict, which was illegal and rendered with an indecent number of procedural violations. At the moment, I am in the process of appealing this verdict in the higher courts. By coercing me into admitting guilt for the sake of parole, the correctional system is pushing me to incriminate myself, and, therefore, to lie. Is the ability to lie a sign that a person has started down the road to rehabilitation?
It states in my sentence that I am a feminist and, therefore, must feel hatred towards religion. Yes, after a year and two months in prison, I am still a feminist, and I am still opposed to the people in charge of the state, but then as now there is no hatred in me. The dozens of women prisoners with whom I attend the Orthodox church at Penal Colony No. 14 cannot see this hatred, either. (…)
Recently, I got a letter containing a parable that has become important to me. What happens to things different in nature when they are placed in boiling water? Brittle things, like eggs, become hard. Hard things, like carrots, become soft. Coffee dissolves and permeates everything. The point of the parable was this: be like coffee. In prison, I am like that coffee.
I want the people who have put me and dozens of other political activists behind bars to understand one simple thing: there are no insurmountable obstacles for a person whose values  consist, first, of her principles and, second, of work and creativity based on these principles. If you strongly believe in something, this faith will help you survive and remain a human being anywhere.
I will surely use my experience in Mordovia in my future work and, although this will not happen until completion of my sentence, I will implement it in projects that will be stronger and politically larger in scale than everything that has happened to me before.
Despite the fact that imprisonment is a quite daunting experience, as a result of having it we political prisoners only become stronger, braver, and more tenacious. And so I ask the last question for today: what, then, is the point of keeping us here?”

Translated from Russian by The Russian Reader

The Argument Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Wasn’t Allowed to Make at Her Parole Hearing

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