Report: Russian judge denies parole for Pussy Riot member

Pussy Riot performing in a Russian cathedral.

Story highlights

  • Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of 3 arrested Pussy Riot members, had asked for parole
  • State news: A judge denies it, saying she broke prison rules and hasn't expressed regret
  • Pussy Riot staged a performance protesting Russia's leaders in 2012 in a Moscow church
  • Activists have decried the arrest and conviction of the punk band's members

A member of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot -- convicted last summer after a protest performance inside a Moscow cathedral -- had her parole bid rejected Friday when a judge said she'd broken prison rules and never expressed regret, state news reported.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's lawyer argued that she should be freed because she has a small child, hadn't had conflicts with other inmates and would have a job once she was freed, reported RAPSI, an official news agency focused on legal matters.

But the judge in Mordovia, in central Russia, sided with prosecutors and took into account Tolokonnikova's behavior at a penal colony in Perm, about 1,000 kilometers (700 miles) east of Moscow.

"She had not always observed the rules of conduct," the judge ruled according to another state news agency, RIA Novosti. "She has two disciplinary penalties not yet removed from her record."

Irina Khrunova, Tolokonnikova's lawyer, told state news that her client will appeal Friday's ruling.

Tolokonnikova and another band member, Maria Alyokhina, both in their 20s, were sentenced in August for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin in one of the Russian Orthodox Church's most important cathedrals.

Yekaterina Samutsevich, a third member of the band, was sentenced at the same time. But she was freed from prison last October.

    Footage of the brief but provocative protest action in February 2012 attracted worldwide attention after it was posted online.

    It showed the band members, their faces shrouded by balaclavas, screaming "Mother Mary, please drive Putin away" inside Christ Savior Cathedral, outraging many of the Russia church's faithful

    The three women, who were arrested shortly after the act, were all convicted of hooliganism. Two other members of the all-female group have fled Russia.

    Human rights activists and celebrities alike rallied around Pussy Riot -- and railed at Russian authorities for going after women who, they said, were expressing their political views -- following the band members' arrest.

    Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, both issued reports earlier this year sharply criticizing Russia's record on freedom of expression. The heavy clampdown on government critics and activists, the groups said, has increased since Vladimir Putin returned to the presidency -- which happened a few months after the Pussy Riot protest act.

    Putin subsequently denied his government employs "Stalinist elements" -- which he equated to a "personality cult and mass violation of law, reprisals, prison camps."

    "But that doesn't mean we should have no discipline, no law and order -- and all people in Russia should be equal before the law."

    That includes the women in Pussy Riot, Putin said.

    "No one puts anyone in prison for political reasons, for their political views. They get punished for violating the law. Everybody should observe the law."