Two years of hell in prison awaits Pussy Riot trio if their appeal fails

 

As lawyers for the punk trio Pussy Riot prepare their appeals, the three women are gearing up for the grim reality of two years in a Russian jail, where they will be able to meet their families and young children just once every six months, and receive phone calls only quarterly.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, Maria Alekhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, were sentenced to two years in prison last week for their "punk prayer" in a Moscow cathedral in February. The women say it was a political protest over the Russian Orthodox Church's support for President Vladimir Putin, but the court ruled that it constituted "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" in a verdict that has caused outrage and across the world.

Lawyer Nikolai Polozov said he expected the court to hear the appeal next month and, if it is unsuccessful, they will then be moved from pre-trial detention to a prison camp.

The women can be dispatched to any prison in Russia, meaning they could end up thousands of miles from Moscow. Two of them have young children, but this will not be taken into account, said Mr Polozov.

Conditions in Russian jails are notoriously poor, with disease and drug use widespread. Last week, 19 prisoners at a jail in the city of Yakutsk attempted a mass suicide by slashing their veins with disposable razors, and many rights organisations have slammed prison conditions in the country. This week, a letter written by Ms Alekhina surfaced, detailing events immediately after the verdict was handed down. She said police in the courthouse dealt with the trio aggressively. "I was surprised, as they didn't usually treat us so rudely, so there must have been an order to do so," wrote Ms Alekhina.

They were loaded into a police bus filled with riot police and given a police escort through Moscow using the "VIP lanes" that allow important cars to avoid traffic. "Terrorists and people who have committed violent crimes don't get treated in this way, but throwing this many resources at three girls shows only one thing – fear," she wrote.

Of the five Pussy Riot members who took part in the "punk prayer", two are still at large and believed to be in Moscow.

Comments