Fears Mount as Pussy Riot Member 'Lost in Transit'

Fears Mount as Pussy Riot Member 'Lost in Transit'

Concern for jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova mounted on her 24th birthday Thursday, after her husband said she could not be found in the Russian prison colony where authorities reportedly sent her in October.

Tolokonnikova has not been seen since being moved on October 22 after protesting alleged prison abuses at her former colony in central Russia and holding a hunger strike.

Tolokonnikova is one of two Pussy Riot members now serving two-year prison terms for performing a protest “punk prayer” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in the run-up to presidential elections last year.

She and fellow bandmember Maria Alyokhina are due for release in March.

Russia’s human rights ombudsman said this week that Tolokonnikova was being transferred and was safe. Her husband Pyotr Verzilov believed that she was on her way to a new colony in Siberia.

However having made the trek to the snow-covered Krasnoyarsk region, Verzilov said on Thursday that his wife was not there.

The search in Siberia went on as Tolokonnikova’s lawyers submitted legal documents contesting her verdict and sentence made by the Khamovnichesky court in Moscow.

The conviction and sentencing of Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina on charges of hooliganism sparked an international outcry.

After being jailed, Tolokonnikova penned a letter published in Russian media listing alleged abuses in her old prison colony, including round-the-clock “slave labour” work, beatings, and lack of sanitary facilities.

She went on a hunger strike in protest, ending it only after having health problems and being placed on a drip in the prison hospital.

After that she was transferred, with officials giving no details of her destination.

Her husband, though, said he received information from a reliable source that she was moved to penal colony number 50 in the town of Nizhny Ingash, in Siberia.

Calling for action in Tolokonnikova’s case, Amnesty International said this week that “there are serious concerns regarding her safety and wellbeing”.

Prison authorities are not required to tell relatives of the convicts’ whereabouts until 10 days after transferring them to a new place.

A group of Tolokonnikova’s supporters staged fireworks for her birthday near the headquarters of the prison service in Moscow in the early hours of Thursday.

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