Pussy Riot member on hunger strike hospitalized

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MOSCOW (AP) — A jailed member of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot was hospitalized Tuesday on the seventh day of a hunger strike she declared to protest what she calls a persecution campaign against her.

Maria Alekhina was transferred to a hospital in her prison colony in the Ural Mountains town of Berezniki, Pyotr Verzilov, who visited the colony Tuesday, told The Associated Press. He is the husband of one of her band mates.

Alekhina went on a hunger strike last Wednesday after she was barred from attending her own parole hearing. The court, which is across the street from the colony, denied her release.

Three members of the band — Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich — were convicted last year of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for an impromptu punk protest against Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral and given two-year sentences.

Samutsevich was later released on appeal. Last month a court in the Mordovia province denied parole to Tolokonnikova, who is married to Verzilov.

In a letter dated Monday and published by her lawyers, Alekhina said prison officials were attempting to turn fellow inmates against her by holding a security crackdown in advance of the parole hearing.

Inmates could previously enter and leave their workplace freely, but now they have to wait for up to an hour for prison guards to escort them, Alekhina's lawyer Irina Khrunova said. The wait denies them prompt medical care when they sustain injuries during their work sewing uniforms, she added.

Samutsevich said the prison administration directly linked the crackdown to Alekhina's "fight against the prison colony and her open statements against the violations of inmates' rights."

She said the prison administration, as an arm of the government, had taken a negative attitude toward the Pussy Riot members from the beginning. "This negative attitude has been building up all the time and now it has turned into an open conflict between the prison colony administration and Masha (Alekhina), and surely this has very unpleasant consequences," Samutsevich told the AP on Tuesday.

Alekhina earlier spent five months in solitary confinement after claiming that officials deliberately lodged her with hardened criminals, including a convicted murderer, and encouraged them to intimidate her.

In a complaint filed in January, Khrunova wrote that officials did nothing after seeing criminals threaten Alekhina with violence. The lawyer said officials also wrote false psychiatric reports and pushed Alekhina into violating colony rules.

Judges have recently lifted several reprimands that officials filed against Alekhina.

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