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article imagePussy Riot member hospitalized, allegedly due to prison overwork

By Raluca Besliu     Feb 3, 2013 in Politics
One of the jailed members of the Pussy Riot punk band, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, has been transferred from a women’s prison colony, where she is serving a two-year sentence, to a prison hospital, after complaining of suffering from severe headaches.
While a Federal Prisons Service spokeswoman dismissed Tolokonnikova's state as "nothing serious,” her lawyer affirmed in a statement that her client’s headaches could, in fact, be “very serious,” as indicated by a special medical investigation in December 2012.
The Pussy Riot member was hospitalized on January 24, after she made an official appeal to the prison director for a diagnostic examination. Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, emphasized that his wife’s appointment had been scheduled before she was sent to the colony, without being linked to a specific illness.
Tolokonnikova and two other band members, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina, were arrested in February 2012, after organizing a protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow. The three were convicted for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred,” after irreverently praying in the cathedral to the Virgin Mary for deliverance from Putin. While Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are now serving two-year sentences in prison colonies, Samutsevich was released on appeal in October 2012.
Speaking about her band-mate’s situation, Samutsevich emphasized that, ever since their trial, Tolokonnikova complained of suffering from headaches, but she was ignored by the judge. Samutsevich claimed that the imprisoned band member’s deteriorating health state is caused by overwork at the IK-14 prison colony in Russia's Mordovia region, which is notorious for its harsh conditions.
In an interview for Novaya Gazeta, Tolokonnikova described the strenuous prison conditions under which she is held. As most female prisoners in Russia’s prison colonies, she works at a sewing machine. She confessed that, although initially she had her fingers punctured by needles, she has gradually gained speed and experience and can now meet her daily quota of preparing lining for 320 jackets a day for police, military and other types of special forces. She is required to work daily, sleep in large barracks housing up to 200 other people and follow a strict routine that starts at 6am. Like all other prisoners, she is only allowed to bathe once a week.
According to Samutsevich, her band-mate was exhausted by the additional evening chores she was given after the eight hours spent sewing. In the meantime, the other Pussy Riot member, Alyokhina, is serving her term in the Perm region in the Urals.
Alexander Rimmer, a human rights activist who spent four years in Russian prisons, likened the prison colonies to the Soviet Union’s gulags. He emphasized that the treatment can be “sadistic,” and that, unlike in pre-trial detention centers, in prison colonies everyone must wear a uniform.
Tolokonnikova’s lawyer has previously strived to obtain her release based on the fact that she has a small child and could serve her sentence when the child is older.
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