MOSCOW: Two members of punk band Pussy Riot lost their appeal to stay in a Moscow pre-trial detention centre on Monday, their lawyer said, and will now serve the remainder of their terms in a remote penal colony where conditions are much tougher.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, and Maria Alyokhina, 24, had their two-year sentence imposed over a cathedral protest against Vladimir Putin upheld by Moscow City Court last week. They are convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
Both Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina have small children and lawyers are saying that a transfer to a colony outside Moscow where the regime is more strict than in detention centres will complicate their contacts with families.
"There are many concerns there -- their safety, their health. A barrack for 150 people is not the same thing as a cell for four people," lawyer Mark Feigin told Reuters. The nearest penal colony is located about 100 km from Moscow.
According to the Russian law only convicts with prison terms of less than six months can serve out their sentences in pre-trial detention centres. The law also makes an exception for inmates with skills needed in such centres.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina's hearings took place at their detention centre, along with the appeals of 10 other inmates. Their lawyers argued that the two could work in the centre as cooks. Officials nominted 3 other inmates to stay.
Russian prisons are notorious for squalid conditions and often brutal treatment of inmates by personnel. The country is facing international criticism over a 2009 death in prison of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who may have been beaten to death.