Freed Russian punk rockers planning prison reform campaign

Newly-free punk rockers Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina are planning to launch a campaign for prison reform in Russia based on their own experiences behind bars. The two Pussy Riot members walked free on Monday (23Dec13) as part of a presidential amnesty after serving almost two years behind bars for hooliganism charges.
The friends reunited on Tuesday (24Dec13) following Tolokonnikova’s release from a penal colony in Siberia, and they immediately began to discuss ways to free Russia from “totalitarianism”.
Both stars had been subjected to what they described as brutal prison conditions behind bars, with Tolokonnikova embarking on a hunger strike to protest the alleged mistreatment of inmates and their reported use as “slave labour” by wardens, while Alekhina claimed to have been forced to undergo repeated and unnecessary gynaecological exams in an effort to break her spirit.
Now the pair is working on setting up a campaign group to fight for prisoners’ rights, and the activists are planning to hold a joint press conference with members of the international media in Moscow on Friday (27Dec13), according to Tolonnikova’s partner, Pyotr Verzilov.
Upon her release on Monday, Tolonnikova also expressed her support for calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in an effort to force authorities to re-evaluate some of their controversial and oppressive policies, including a ban on the promotion of homosexuality to minors.
The two rockers were jailed along with fellow bandmate Yekaterina Samutsevich last year (12) over a controversial church protest they staged against Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, Samutsevich’s sentence was commuted in October, 2012 and she was set free. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina had originally been expected to be granted parole in March (14).