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Russia rejects parole request by hunger-striking Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina

A Russian court has rejected a parole request by hunger-striking Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, despite pleas for leniency from former Beatle Paul McCartney, Patti Smith and Peter Gabriel.
Maria AlyokhinaEnlarge
Opposition activists attend in Moscow on March 2, 2013 demanding the release of jailed members of the female punk band 'Pussy Riot' Maria Alyokhina (L) and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

A Russian court has rejected a parole request by hunger-striking Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, despite pleas for leniency from former Beatle Paul McCartney, Patti Smith and Peter Gabriel.

Alyokhina, 24, serving two years for hooliganism over a stunt protesting against Russian president Vladimir Putin's close relationship with the Orthodox church, launched the hunger strike Wednesday.

She had been denied permission to attend the parole hearing in Berezniki, a small city in the Urals region of Perm, 600 miles from Moscow, where Alyokhina's prison colony is situated, the Guardian wrote.

Instead, she appeared via videolink and was required to file all motions by fax, requiring regular breaks in the hearing, prompting her to launch the hunger strike in protest.

Alyokhina has also forbidden her lawyers from further representing, an effective rejection of a widely criticised and "absurd" justice system, the Guardian wrote.

She said at the close of proceedings:

"Let the troika sitting here โ€“ the judge, the prosecutor and the colony employee โ€“ decide my fate."

It was a reference to the Soviet-era three-person commissions that issued sentences to perceived enemies without a trial.

The Russian band members Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevic received worldwide notoriety in 2012 when a Moscow court jailed them for two years for conducting a punk protest in the main cathedral in Moscow.

Samtusevic was released on appeal.

However, according to the Moscow Times, Alyokhina's request was denied on the basis that she had violated prison rules by refusing to make her bed or to wear a headscarf while sewing and by writing letters during mealtimes.

Her supporters say the proceedings were predetermined.

Alyokhina's mother Natalia told Svoboda Radio:

"This looked not like a court hearing but like arm-twisting. Clearly the court was not interested in the character of the convict, because the decision was likely made in advance."

McCartney, meantime, has called for Alyokhina's release on his website and also sent Alyokhina a handwritten letter ahead of the parole hearing.

His letter said:

"I believe that you granting this request would send a very positive message to all the people who have followed this case. My personal belief is that further incarceration for Maria will be harmful for her and the situation as a whole, which of course is being watched by people all over the world."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/hollyworld/Maria-Alyokhina-pussy-riot-hunger-strike-paul-mccartney