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Pussy Riot member goes on hunger strike, writes open letter

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, serving a two year sentence in a penal colony, started a hunger strike against "slave labor" on Monday.

Nadezhda tolokonnikova behind barsEnlarge
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova looks on while standing in the defendant's cage in Zubova Polyana, in the Republic of Mordovia. (Maksim Blinov/AFP/Getty Images)

A jailed member of the Russian anti-Putin protest group Pussy Riot went on hunger strike Monday, objecting to the "slave labor" of her penal colony and a death threat she claimed to receive from a senior prison official.

"Beginning Sept. 23, I am going on hunger strike and refusing to participate in colony slave labor," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova wrote in an open letter that has been spread by her husband Pyotr Verzilov.

"I will do this until the administration starts obeying the law and stops treating incarcerated women like cattle," Tolokonnikova added.

In August last year Tolokonnikova was sentenced to two years at Penal Colony No.14 for her part in a "punk prayer" Pussy Riot had preformed in a Moscow cathedral to protest Russian President Vladimir Putin's authoritarian rule.

Tolokonnikova wrote in the letter about the grueling work conditions of the prison. The letter has been published by the Guardian and translated by N + 1 magazine. 

"My brigade in the sewing shop works 16 to 17 hours a day. From 7.30 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. At best, we get four hours of sleep a night. We have a day off once every month and a half. We work almost every Sunday. Prisoners submit petitions to work on weekends "out of [their] own desire". In actuality, there is, of course, no desire to speak of. These petitions are written on the orders of the administration and under pressure from the prisoners that help enforce it." 

Tolokonnikova goes on to say she had requested the federal Investigative Committee to look into a death threat she claimed to receive from a senior prison official after she complained about prison conditions. She quoted the official saying: "You will surely never feel bad again because it is never bad in the other world."

Another Pussy Riot member, Maria Alyokhina, went on hunger strike this summer. She was moved to a hospital in May, and according to Reuters, ended her protest after authorities agreed to her demands.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/130923/pussy-riot-member-goes-hunger-strike