Court rules to keep Pussy Riot member in prison

Friday 26 July 2013 13.44
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was denied parole in her latest court attempt for release
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova was denied parole in her latest court attempt for release

A judge has refused a parole appeal by a second jailed member of the Russian female punk group Pussy Riot.

The refusal to release Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (23) follows the failure of another parole bid by fellow-band member Maria Alyokhina earlier this week.

The two women along with fellow band member Yekaterina Samutsevich were sentenced to two years in prison last August after performing a punk protest against Vladimir Putin and the Orthodox Church in Moscow's main cathedral last year.

Ms Samutsevich was freed in October when her sentence was suspended on appeal after she argued that she had been prevented from taking part in the protest by a guard.

The performance outraged devout church believers, but the case has been seen as part of a wider crackdown on protests since President Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.

There has been widespread international criticism of the women’s jailing after they were charged with breaches of public order motivated by religious hatred.

Denying Tolokonnikova’s release bid at the hearing in Saransk, 650km southeast of Moscow, Judge Valery Lityushkin reaffirmed a court decision from April.

Her refusal to repent has been cited by prison authorities as a reason to prevent her release on parole.

"I have never admitted my guilt and will never do so. I don't consider it my disadvantage as the prison is trying to portray it," Ms Tolokonnikova told the hearing.

"On the contrary, it is my advantage - only reaffirming that I have my own opinions and convictions, which I'm ready to defend until the very end."

Her family said the decision was not unexpected, but welcomed her being allowed to attend the court from her the remote prison colony where she is serving her sentence.

Performers such as Madonna, Sting and former Beatle Paul McCartney offered their support for Pussy Riot last year.

Both jailed women are due for release next year.