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Russian court hears Pussy Riot member's parole request

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A court in Russia's Urals region on Wednesday began hearing a request for parole by one of the members of radical opposition rock group Pussy Riot sentenced to two years in a prison camp over a stunt in a church.

The court in the city of Berezniki in the Perm region of the Urals started hearing the request by Maria Alyokhina, one of two members of the group serving sentences in remote prison camps.

Alyokhina was not present in court and instead followed proceedings via a video-link up from her prison camp in Berezniki, Russian news agencies reported from the courtroom.

However judge Mikhail Shagalov rejected her request to be present, prompting Alyokhina to ask for the judge to be recused, a petition that was also rejected.

Alyokhina said her "rights were being violated by being prevented from attending in person", the Interfax news agency reported. As a result of her absence from the court, she was forced to confer with her lawyer Irina Khrunova by telephone.

Little progress in deciding the parole request was made in the morning's hearings which were taken up with the legal technicalities. The judge then adjourned the case for a lunch break.

The hearing comes a month after a court in the central Mordovia region rejected a request for parole by the second Pussy Riot member held in a prison colony.

The court ruled at the time that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova did not deserve parole because she has not repented for her actions and has been given reprimands.

The prison camp where Alyokhina is being held has put forward similar arguments in favour of her staying behind bars, Tolokonnikova's husband Pyotr Verzilov told the Interfax news agency.

Alyokhina has a reprimand for not getting up on time and has not confessed her guilt.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were given two-year sentences for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred over a short performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February 2012 protesting Putin's close links with the Russian Orthodox Church.

A third woman, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was convicted but received a suspended sentence on appeal.

The 2012 trial of the trio grabbed worldwide attention, with stars such as Madonna, Sting and Yoko Ono voicing their support and their plight becoming a rallying cause for the anti-Putin opposition.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130522/russian-court-hears-pussy-riot-members-parole-request