Jailed Pussy Riot Member Begins Hunger Strike, Alleges Abuse And Death Threats

A jailed member of the Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot has started a hunger strike in response to her claim that the prison administration is threatening her life.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova explained her plight in a letter to various media outlets, saying that she had received death threats from prison employees as well as fellow inmates. She accused the latter of collaborating with administrative officials at the Mordovia labor penal colony where she is serving her sentence.

Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, released the letter to the public on September 23. It was also sent to various government officials overseeing Russia’s penitentiary system.

In additions to threats against her person, Tolokonnikova also says that prison officials are abusing inmates by forcing them to work 17 hours a day including weekends on approximately four hours of sleep each night.

Female prisoners who have “violated the rules” are subjected to beatings and denied food, water, and use of a toilet.

Tolokonnikova says that her hunger strike will last until she is transferred to another prison, calling it “the only possible way for me out of this situation.” Other attempts to bring attention to the abuses result in further abuse, she says.

“The Mordovia inmates are afraid of their own shadows.”

The 23-year-old mother was imprisoned for staging a performance critical of President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral. Along with fellow Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, she is serving a two-year prison sentence after being convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.

Their sentences were condemned by governments in the West as too harsh, and various human rights groups, including the Internet hactivist collective known as Anonymous, have helped bring the case international attention.

[Image: Wikimedia Commons]