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Jailed Pussy Riot Member Starts Hunger Strike

Maria Alyokhina was denied access to her own parole hearing

Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot.
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages
May 22, 2013 2:20 PM ET

Jailed Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina has started a hunger strike to protest having been denied access to her own parole hearing. The 24-year-old Russian artist was scheduled for a hearing today, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, she was not allowed to attend. In response, she barred her attorney from attending in her stead. "I'm declaring a hunger strike and order my defense lawyers not to take part in this court trial," Alyokhina said.

Alyokhina argued that the regional court in Berizniki was only across the road to the penal colony in the Urals, where she's been imprisoned since she and two bandmates were sentenced to two years in prison last year after they were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religous hatred for staging a "punk prayer" protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova Denied Parole

Court officials maintained her presence wasn't necessary for the hearing and that she could consult with her lawyer over a video link. Though the video link wasn't enough for Alyokhina during her hearing, she used the platform to make her protest announcement. Russian courts have now pushed back the hearing to tomorrow.

Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were convicted last August after court proceedings that were criticized as a show trial intended to chill dissent. Samutsevich was freed on appeal last October, though Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are still imprisoned. Alyokhina sought a deferred sentence in January to care for her young son, but was denied by the courts. Tolokonnikova was denied parole just last month.

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