Pussy Riot member withdraws release plea in solidarity with bandmate

Reuters

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Jailed PussyRiot punk band member Maria Alyokhina withdrew her plea for anearly release on Friday in a show of support for a bandmate nowin hospital after going on hunger strike to protest over prisonconditions.

Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are serving a two-yearsentence for wht critics termed a profanity-laden protestagainst President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.

"I do not have any moral right to take part in this courthearing at a time when my friend and fellow convict NadezhdaTolokonnikova does not have such opportunity," Alyokhina toldthe court in the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.

"She is currently in hospital or back in that same prisonwhich we have heard horrible things about."

Tolokonnikova was admitted to a prison hospital last monthafter going on a hunger strike to protest against what shecalled "slave labour" at Corrective Colony No. 14 in theMordovia region, southeast of Moscow, where she is serving hersentence.

Tolokonnikova and two other band members were convicted ofhooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a February 2012protest in which they burst into Christ the Saviour Cathedraland prayed to the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.

Kremlin critics say their trial was part of a crackdown ondissent since Putin started a third term at the Kremlin in May2012.

Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova are both due for release inMarch. A third band member had her sentence suspended.

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