Pussy Riot convict's penalty a likely plot to deny her parole - lawyer

After Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of the jailed members of the Pussy Riot punk rock band, was put in an isolation cell for 15 days her lawyers concurred with suspicions that the purpose of the penalty was to block her planned appeal for parole.

"I know about this situation from Pyotr Verzilov [Tolokonnikova's husband]. The reason for the penalty was that Nadezhda allegedly went to the medical unit unescorted," Oleg Nevlyutov, one of Tolokonnikova's lawyers, told Interfax on Saturday.

Under the prison system rules, walking through the premises of a jail unescorted by guards is one the offenses that are to be examined at a meeting of an ad hoc disciplinary commission where the head of the prison orders a penalty.

"It may be an oral warning, a reprimand or detention in an isolation cell. There hasn't been any accurate information whether Nadya is in an isolation cell or is waiting for the decision of a disciplinary commission," Nevlyutov said.

Nevlyutov, who is Tolokonnikova's lawyer in the republic of Mordovia, where her prison is located, confirmed that the musician's Moscow lawyer, Irina Khrunova, planned to seek parole for her this month.

"There is a practice that 'undesirable' people who are in jail have penalties slapped on them just before they would be due to be released, and then that is cited as the reason to refuse parole," Nevlyutov said.He said he planned to visit Tolokonnikova on Wednesday to find out what had actually happened.

On Friday, a Pussy Riot supporter said in a microblog that Tolokonnikova had been put in an isolation cell for 15 days. The microblog message cited the prison administration as claiming that Tolokonnikova had walked through the jail premises unescorted and that this was the reason for per penalty.

"The only purpose of Nadya's detention in a punishment cell was to deprive her of the right to parole on the last working day before the submission of the [parole] appeal to court," the message said.

On February 21, 2012, three Pussy Riot performers wearing balaclavas sang a song at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior that targeted Vladimir Putin, who was then running for his third presidential term.

Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were later arrested on "hooliganism" charges, which they refused to admit, claiming that that the performance, which infuriated worshipers, had been a political act and that they had had no intention to offend anyone's religious feelings.

On August 17, the court of one of Moscow's districts sentenced the three young women to two years in prison. On October 10, the Moscow City Court upheld the sentences for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina but changed the sentence for Samutsevich, releasing her.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sent to different prisons to serve their sentences.

According to news early last month, Tolokonnikova was undergoing an examination in the hospital for headaches.

Meanwhile, the two women's defense attorneys have been planning parole appeals for her and Alyokhina.

"One must start getting ready for parole a month or two in advance, and so work is underway, necessary documents are getting collected, - everything will be done in time," Moscow lawyer Khrunova told Interfax early in February.

Alyokhina also has some penalties on her prison-time record, which she is appealing. The administration of her prison may deny her parole, but she would then take the matter to court.

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