Russian court rejects Pussy Riot protester's bid for release

Wed Jan 16, 2013 12:46pm EST
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By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Jailed Pussy Riot protester Maria Alyokhina lost an appeal on Wednesday to be freed and have her sentence deferred so she could care for her five-year-old son.

Alyokhina is serving a two-year sentence in a remote prison - an experience she said was like something from the works of Nikolai Gogol, Franz Kafka or George Orwell - for a protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

She had asked a court to free her from the jail in the Ural Mountains town of Berezniki, 1,200 km (750 miles) northeast of Moscow, and allow her to serve out her sentence when her son was older.

"The court has ruled against granting the request," the judge said after the hearing that stretched into the evening at the city court in Berezniki.

The court found that Alyokhina's family situation had been properly taken into account during her trial.

Alyokhina and two fellow band members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for their "punk prayer", which was criticized by Putin and cast by the Russian Orthodox Church as part of a concerted attack on the country's main faith.

One of the three was released on appeal with a suspended sentence, but Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, are less than halfway through their prison terms, which are counted from their arrests in March 2012.

The court hearing focused less on Alyokhina's child than on reprimands she has received from prison authorities.   Continued...

Maria Alyokhina, a member of the female punk band "Pussy Riot", smiles inside the defendants' box during a court hearing in Berezniki in Perm region, near the Ural mountains, January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin