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Sat Oct 25 06:19:57 SAST 2014

Jailed Pussy Riot member 'fears for life' in penal colony

Sapa-AFP | 20 October, 2013 11:15
Member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot" Nadezhda Tolokonnikova looks out from a holding cell as she attends a court hearing to appeal for parole at the Supreme Court of Mordovia in Saransk, July 26, 2013.
Image by: SERGEI KARPUKHIN / REUTERS

Jailed Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said in a letter that she feared for her life in her penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia after resuming a hunger strike.

"I confess - yes, I am afraid for my life. Because I don't know what will happen to me tonight. What the butchers of the Mordovia prison service will decide to do to me," she said in a letter passed to media by her former defence lawyer Violetta Volkova.

Her latest handwritten letter, scans of which were published by the New Times opposition magazine, is dated Friday.

Volkova wrote on her blog that she had visited Tolokonnikova at her penal colony on Friday morning when she was on hunger strike, describing her as seriously ill.

"It's not just that she is not in a condition to hunger strike; she is killing herself with it," she said.

"If you met Nadya on the street now, you would probably never recognise her."

Tolokonnikova is serving a two-year sentence in the central Russian region for her punk protest group's performance in a Moscow church criticising President Vladimir Putin.

The 23-year-old last month went on hunger strike demanding a transfer to another colony. She released a letter detailing 17-hour days in a sewing workshop and a veiled death threat from the deputy prison governor.

After eight days, she was hospitalised and put on a drip.

She resumed the hunger strike on Friday after returning to her penal colony Number 14 in the region dotted with former Gulag camps.

On Friday afternoon, the prison service announced it would transfer Tolokonnikova to another colony.

Her husband Pyotr Verzilov wrote on Twitter on Saturday that Tolokonnikova was still on hunger strike and would continue "until the prison service's decision to move her is carried out".

Tolokonnikova and fellow Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina are due to be released in March next year. Both have young children. Each has had two requests for parole turned down.

Verzilov accused lawyer Volkova of visiting Tolokonnikova in order to try to persuade her to tone down her demands and compromise with the prison authorities.

He sent AFP a letter signed by Tolokonnikova and dated Friday formally refusing Volkova's services and saying she suspected her of "personal links to the prison administration".

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