Court dismisses appeal for Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina

A Russian court yesterday dismissed the appeal of Maria Alekhina, one of the three members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot. Alekhina, 24, appealed to the local court asking to defer the remaining 13 months of her two year sentence until her six-year-old son, Filipp, turns 14.

Demotix | Anna Volkova

Judge Galina Yefremova said that the initial ruling had taken Alekhina’s young son into account, and added that her “felony” is the reason for her son’s suffering, rather than separation from his mother. Alekhina is currently serving her sentence labouring as a seamstress in a prison colony in the Ural mountain city of Berezniki.

Alekhina has six penalties against her in the colony, but she has rejected them, as two of the offences against her were for failing to wake up at 5:30 AM. Alekhina said that she did not hear the call of the reveille, signaling the start of a day working in the colony. Staff from the prison camp testified against Alekhina during yesterday’s hearing. She was also penalised after she attempted to provide her lawyer with documents for the European Court of Human Rights in person rather than by post.

The activist was sentenced to two years in prison along with two other members Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich on charges of hooliganism in August 2012

The trio performed a “punk prayer” against Vladimir Putin on 21 February, and charges were brought against them only days after, along with a call from the Russian Orthodox Church for more stringent punishment for blasphemy.

While Samutsevich was released on bail on 10 October, Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were sent to serve their two year sentences in prison colonies. Tolokonnikova is also a mother to a young child and has also appealed for deferment. However, a date has not yet been set for a hearing.

The charges brought against the trio drew criticism and outrage across the globe, with leading human rights organisations condemning the case for being politically motivated.

Alekhina plans to appeal the court’s ruling, but Russian courts rarely change verdicts in politically motivated cases. While unwavering in appealing her case, Alekhina refuses to plead guilty, and said yesterday “no one will ever force me into admitting guilt — not for the sake of deferment or conditional early discharge.”