A Russian court on Friday denied a request for parole by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the feminist rock band Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive], so that she could look after her young daughter. In August Tolokonnikova and two other members of the group were sentenced [JURIST report] to two years in prison for "hooliganism," characterized by the court as driven by religious hatred, in connection to the band's February 2012 "guerrilla performance" of a protest song in at the altar of Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral [official website], a space maintained to be sacred to the Russian Orthodox Church. Tolokonnikova has served eight months [AP report] of her sentence in a prison colony in central Russia. In rejecting Tolokonnikova's parole request, the judge held that her parental status had already been acknowledged by the legal system when she was sentenced to two years in prison after prosecutors had sought three. In addition, the court cited Tolokonnikova's violations of prison regulations as evidence that she was unfit to leave incarceration.
The imprisonment of members of Pussy Riot sparked an international outcry against the Russian political and judicial system. In February members of the band filed a complaint [JURIST report] in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] challenging their conviction. They contend that their conviction violates four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. In January a court denied [JURIST report] the band's appeal of an Internet ban on their videos. The court ruled that the band's videos questioning the role of religion in Russian government was "extremist" and President Vladimir Putin argued that the ban is protecting the beliefs of the Russian Orthodox population. During the same month a court denied [JURIST report] a sentencing deferral for band member Maria Alekhina, despite her having a young child. In October Alekhina and Tolokonnikova were transferred to separate regional prisons [JURIST report] generally reserved for dangerous criminals to serve their two-year sentences. Earlier in October Yekaterina Samutsevich was freed on appeal[JURIST report] because she did not actually participate in the protest song, and she vowed to take the band's case to the ECHR on charges that the Russian government had illegally detained them and also violated the rock group's right to free speech.