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Oct. 21 2013 - 00:10

Pussy Riot's Tolokonnikova Transferred to New Prison

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is to be transferred to a new penitentiary for her "personal safety," prison authorities said Friday, after Tolokonnikova announced that she was resuming a hunger strike over poor conditions at the facility where she had been jailed.

Tolokonnikova, who is serving a two-year sentence for her participation in punk group Pussy Riot's unauthorized performance in a Moscow cathedral last year, went on hunger strike last month to protest harsh conditions at her Mordovia prison, which she compared to a slave labor camp. She also accused a prison official of threatening to kill her.

Following her stay in a hospital, she resumed the strike Friday after prison officials ordered her to be discharged and sent back to the facility in Mordovia, her husband Pyotr Verzilov said, Interfax reported. He noted that returning her to the Mordovia penitentiary went against "earlier promises" made by prison officials to keep her hospitalized or have her transferred.

In an apparent response to Tolokonnikova restarting her protest, the Federal Prison Service said she would be moved to a new facility. The state agency said information about her new location would be made known to one of her relatives within 10 days.

Fellow Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, who is also serving a two-year jail term, signaled her support for Tolokonnikova's protest Friday by withdrawing her appeal to have her sentence reduced.

Alyokhina told the judge at the Avtozavodsky District Court in Nizhny Novgorod that it would be "unethical" to seek release from prison while Tolokonnikova was on hunger strike.

"If the Russian authorities are willing to grant me an early release, let them make it under a broad amnesty, along with other convicted women who have small children," Alyokhina said, Interfax reported.

President Vladimir Putin has sanctioned a "broad" amnesty for the 20th anniversary of the Constitution, marked on Dec. 12. Though lawmakers are still haggling over who the amnesty will apply to, it is expected that a large number of inmates will be freed, including the mothers of young children and nonviolent offenders.

Alyokhina's lawyer Irina Khrunova had been trying to get her client's prison sentence commuted to a fine or community service.

"I think it would be unethical to go before the court when another Pussy Riot member is in the hospital," Alyokhina said. "I do not have the moral right to go through the process when my friend Nadezhda Tolokonnikova does not have such an opportunity because she is in the hospital or in a prison about which one hears terrible things."

The two Pussy Riot members were convicted on hooliganism charges after donning balaclavas and performing an anti-Putin song at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in February 2012. Many human rights groups in Russia and abroad consider them to be political prisoners.

The pair is currently set to be released in March 2014.

Contact the author at newsreporter@imedia.ru

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