Pussy Riot convict transferred, hospitalised

2013-11-14 18:53
One of the jailed members of the all-girl punk band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, looks on while sitting in a glass-walled cage in a court in Moscow. (File, AFP)

One of the jailed members of the all-girl punk band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, looks on while sitting in a glass-walled cage in a court in Moscow. (File, AFP)

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Moscow - Russian authorities confirmed on Thursday that jailed Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova had been moved to a new prison in Siberia, after three weeks of uncertainty about her whereabouts.

Her husband Pyotr Verzilov, who spoke to his wife by phone, said she has been weakened by a recent hunger strike and is currently at a hospital for convicts rather than the prison itself, which is in the Siberian Krasnoyarsk region.

Friends and activists have been concerned about Tolokonnikova's situation as the Russian authorities moved her thousands of kilometres by train across Russia without saying where she was.

"Convict Tolokonnikova has arrived to an institution of the Russian prison service in the Krasnoyarsk region," the region's prison service said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the service said he was not authorised to give detailed information out, but told AFP that Tolokonnikova was feeling "normal".

Tolokonnikova, 24, had been missing for 24 days after being moved out of her original prison colony in central Russia's Mordovia region. She had earlier published a letter in Russian media alleging prison abuse and held a hunger strike in protest.

Her letter said the colony has round-the-clock "slave labour", with 17-hour days in a sewing workshop, beatings, and lack of sanitary facilities.

Verzilov said Tolokonnikova has in fact been for the past two days in a regional tuberculosis hospital in the city of Krasnoyarsk, a medical ward for convicts in the region.

She does not have tuberculosis but is being treated and examined after health complications that followed her hunger strike, Verzilov said, adding he hoped to see his wife on Friday.

"She is not happy with the isolation of her transfer, but she is content that her conditions have been met," he told AFP.

Tolokonnikova had demanded to be moved out of her Mordovia colony and started eating when this was done, he said.

Prison authorities are not required to tell relatives of the convicts' whereabouts until 10 days after transferring them to a new place.

Transfers often take weeks as convicts are slowly moved on trains with stopovers in various prisons in the vast country.

There are no legal limitations as to how long these transfers may take, however they are rarely done in strict isolation and information about prisoners' whereabouts leaks out via other prisoners.

Tolokonnikova's long transfer and information vacuum had led rights groups to demand information, with Amnesty International citing "serious concerns regarding her safety and wellbeing".

Verzilov had earlier said he believed his wife was bound for Nizhny Ingash, a town in the taiga that lies on the Trans-Siberian railway about 300km from the regional centre Krasnoyarsk and four time zones away from Moscow.

Tolokonnikova and fellow band member Maria Alyokhina, who is being kept in the Ural region of Perm, will in March have served out their jail sentence for performing a "punk prayer" in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral protesting ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin.

The conviction and sentencing of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina on charges of hooliganism sparked an international outcry.

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