Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova goes on hunger strike in jail

 

A jailed member of the punk band Pussy Riot has launched a hunger strike to protest against living conditions in prison which she says “treat women like cattle”.

In a long letter Nadezhda Tolokonnikova says she is lucky to get four hours of sleep a night and has received a death threat from a prison official.

Tolokonnikova was jailed for two years in August 2012 after performing what the band called a “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral in a protest against Vladimir Putin.

As part of her punishment she has to sew police uniforms, and says she is expected to work 16 or 17 hours a day, starting at 7.30am and not finishing until after midnight.

“I am going on hunger strike and refusing to participate in colony slave labour,” Tolokonnikova wrote in a letter circulated by her husband, Pyotr Verzilov.“I will do this until the administration stops treating incarcerated women like cattle,” she wrote.

In the best case scenario we get four hours of sleep per night,“ Tolokonnikova says. ”We get a day off once every six weeks. Almost all Sundays are work days. Prisoners are forced to write requests to work on weekends saying it is their own voluntary decision.“

She says she will refuse food until her concerns are addressed. ”As of Monday 23 September I announce that I am on hunger strike. This is an extreme method, but I am absolutely certain that it is the only way out of this situation for me. The prison colony's administration refuses to listen to me.”

Though she has not been subject to violence, she says others are regularly beaten on the face or kidneys. The beatings are carried out by other inmates, but “never happen without the knowledge and sanction of the prison authorities”. Tolokonnikova also wrote that Mordovia, where she is, remains one of the most feared in Russia.

A Mordovia prison system spokesman denied all of Tolokonnikova's allegations calling her claims of death threats “absurd”. Earlier this year Maria Alyokhina, another member of Pussy Riot also subject to prison, went on hunger strike for 11 days against conditions in the prison in the Perm region where she is serving her sentence. The prison authorities met many of her demands. Both she and Tolokonnikova are due for release in March next year.

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Protestors demonstrate against the prison sentences of the Russian band Pussy Riot

 

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