Tolokonnikova goes on hunger strike in penal colony

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, who is now in a penal colony, has gone on a hunger strike, saying the administration of the colony is threatening to kill her.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, who is now in a penal colony, has gone on a hunger strike, saying the administration of the colony is threatening to kill her.

"I am going on hunger strike on Monday, September 23. It's an extreme measure, but I am absolutely confident that it's the only possible way out for me in this situation. The administration of the colony is refusing to hear me," Tolokonnikova said in a letter provided to Interfax by her husband Pyotr Verzilov.

Tolokonnikova said inmates in her colony have to work 16 hours a day. "My brigade in the sewing department works 16-17 hours a day. We work from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 a.m. We don't get more than four hours of sleep a day. We get days-off only once every six weeks. Almost all Sundays are working days. Convicts write applications to work on weekends saying they want to do so. In reality, they don't, however, they are being ordered to write these papers by the colony administration and the inmates who are the administration's mouthpieces," Tolokonnikova said.

Tolokonnikova said some inmates are beaten by other women. "The regime in the colony is really made to suppress people's will, intimidate them, and turn them into silent slaves using convicts who work as heads of brigades and units, who get instructions form their superiors," she said in her letter.

"For this reason, I am going on hunger strike beginning on September 23 and I refuse to take part in this slave labor until the colony administration begins fulfilling laws and treating convicted women as people, not as cattle to which laws do not apply," the letter says.

Tolokonnikova has written a letter to the Federal Service for the Enforcement of Punishments, saying she is going on hunger strike, has complained to the Investigations Committee that she is getting threats from the colony administration, and has also written a letter to human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin.

Several Pussy Riot members staged a performance at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on February 21, 2012. The action caused great controversy in both Russia and abroad. Three Pussy Riot members, i.e. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich, and Maria Alyokhina were detained on disorderly conduct charges. The women refused to admit their guilt, saying that they did not intend to insult believers.

The Khamovnichesky Court found Tolokonnikova, Samutsevich, and Alyokhina guilty of disorderly conduct based on religious enmity and sentenced them to two years in prison each on August 17. The Moscow City Court later upheld Tolokonnikova's and Alyokhina's sentences and suspended Samutsevich's sentence.

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