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Russia court denies sentencing deferral for imprisoned feminist rocker

The City Court of Berezniki, Russia [official website, in Russian] on Wednesday denied the appeal of an imprisoned member of the feminist rock band Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to defer serving her sentence for hooliganism until her five-year-old son reaches the age of 14. Specifically, band member Maria Alekhina argued [AP report] that separation from her child Fillip would cause psychological damage to the young boy, and that she should therefore be allowed to serve the remainder of her two-year prison sentence at a later date. Sentence deferrals are said to be uncommon in Russia, and this case was no exception. Judge Galina Yefremova rejected the rocker's petition, reasoning that the sentencing court had already taken the child's existence into account. Despite asking the court for a deferral, Alekhina refused to admit her guilt for her hooliganism and religious hatred convictions in connection with Pussy Riot's performance at an protest against Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website; JURIST news archive] at a Moscow cathedral on February 21 of last year.

In October, Alekhina and band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were transferred to separate regional prisons [JURIST report] generally reserved for dangerous criminals to serve their two-year sentences. Earlier in October, the band's third member, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed on appeal [JURIST report] because she did not actually participate in the protest song, and vowed to take the band's case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on charges that the Russian government had illegally detained them and also violated the rock group's right to free speech. Samutsevich had previously asked for a delay in the proceedings after firing the lawyer [JURIST report] that had been representing the band as a whole. All three members were given two-year prison sentences after they were convicted [JURIST report] in August of hooliganism in connection with "guerrilla performance" of a protest song in February at the altar of downtown Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral. Since the beginning of the trial, the group's lawyers and human rights groups have said the charges were politically motivated [JURIST report] by Putin to discredit his opposition.

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