Jailed Pussy Riot Member Goes On Hunger Strike

(Radio.com) Jailed Pussy Riot member, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, went on a hunger strike beginning yesterday in hopes that it will send a message to the Russian jail where she has been for the last year that they must treat their prisoners humanely.

In an open letter printed in The Guardian, she writes, "This is an extreme method, but I am convinced that it is my only way out of my current situation."

She goes on to explain that the Mordovia camp where she has been placed has "the highest levels of security, the longest workdays, and the most flagrant rights violation." She compares being in this specific jail to being sent to the "scaffold," or to her own execution.

"The penal colony administration refuses to hear me. But I, in turn, refuse to back down from my demands," Tolokonnikova wrote. "I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions. I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves."

Tolokonnikova was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for a performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. She says that when she was taken to prison she was instructed to plead guilty by the head administrator of the jail who told her, "People usually change their minds when bad things happen to them. If you want to be paroled as soon as possible, you have to confess your guilt. If you don't, you won't get parole." He threatened that to get out she would have to work long hours to fill a quota–the camp must hand sew 120 to 150 uniforms per day–telling her, "You should know that we have broken stronger wills than yours!"

Her brigade in the sewing shop works 16 to 17 hours a day, getting, at most, four hours of sleep a night. "We have a day off once every month and a half," Tolokonnikova said. "We work almost every Sunday. Prisoners submit petitions to work on weekends 'out of [their] own desire'…No one dares to disobey these orders and not submit such petitions regarding entering the work zone on Sunday, which means working until 1 am." A lot more.

Radio.com is an official news provider for antiMusic.com.
Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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