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Pussy Riot punk band members request reprieve

August 23, 2013, 12:06 UTC+3
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina would be able to work in the media or charities, giving part of their pay to the state
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The Kommersant daily has learned that the defense lawyers of members of the Pussy Riot girls’ punk band that were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for a punk prayer service in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral, have prepared a probation application to change their remaining prison term to correctional labor. According to the lawyers, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, who are to be released in March 2014, would be able to work in the media or charities, giving part of their pay to the state. Human rights activists and lawyers say that such cases almost never occur in the judicial practice, but that the punk group case may become a precedent.

According to the motions, on August 17, 2012 Moscow’s Khamovnichesky Court convicted members of the punk band of a “non-violent crime;” both women have minor children. “Obviously, a mother’s conviction with deprivation of liberty and, as a consequence, the lack of communication between the child and the mother during the prison term, cannot but affect the development of the child’s personality and psyche,” Pussy Riot members’ lawyer Irina Khrunova says. Both Khrunova’s clients are to be released no earlier than March 3 (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova) and March 4 (Maria Alyokhina), 2014. In the view of the lawyer, they could serve the remainder of their term at liberty. According to Article 175 of the Correctional Code of the Russian Federation, corrective labor may be applied as a variant of a lighter punishment.

Lawyers and human rights activists say that the defense lawyers of Pussy Riot had the right to file such a petition, but they are “not completely sure of its success.” “The lawyers’ appeal is quite legitimate. If a convict committed a non-violent crime and has served a considerable time, the sentence may be changed: either to a colony-settlement or correctional labor. Sentences are rarely changed to corrective labor, the practice is not developed, the base for the penalty is not ready,” member of the public monitoring committee Valery Borshchev told the Kommersant daily. However, he believes that because of the public attention to the Pussy Riot case, such a judicial precedent might be created.

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