Court considers Pussy Riot member release

Musician serving two-year sentence for irreverent Putin protest

A Russian court is to consider the custody of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) . Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

A Russian court is to consider the custody of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (right) . Photograph: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images

Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 09:49

A Russian court is to consider whether one of the jailed Pussy Riot band members is eligible for early release.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who has been in custody since her arrest last March, is serving a two-year sentence for the band’s irreverent protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s main cathedral.

A court in Zubova Polyana opened the hearings today as dozens of journalists descended on the small town in the central province of Mordovia, home to a sprawling web of Soviet-era prison camps.

Ms Tolokonnikova, dressed in a Soviet-style dark-blue prison uniform with a white scarf around her neck, told the court that the prison colony did not support her plea of early release because she “didn’t repent”. Russian law does not make repentance a condition for early release.

Leading Ms Tolokonnikova’s defence team is Irina Khrunova who secured bandmate Yekaterina Samutsevich’s release. Defence lawyers urged the court to release Ms Tolokonnikov so she can take care of her five-year-old daughter. Lawyer Dmitry Dinze also complained that prison officials seem unable to provide proper conditions to treat her persistent headaches.

Ms Tolokonnikova, 23, and two other female members of the punk band were convicted last year of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for the anti-Putin performance at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral.

One of the women has had her sentence suspended on appeal.

AP