Pussy Riot punk wins victory on prison reprimands

A Russian court ordered the cancellation Friday of two formal reprimands against a jailed Pussy Riot member, in a move her supporters hailed as a rare victory for the embattled punk band.

Maria Alyokhina, who is serving a two-year sentence in a prison camp over a protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's cathedral last year, went to court to contest reprimands meted out for transgressions including getting up late and being rude to prison staff.

A court in the Perm region where she is imprisoned cancelled two of Alyokhina's four formal reprimands, but the others remain in place, court spokeswoman Yulia Medvedeva said.

The remaining reprimands mean Alyokhina, 24, cannot be released on parole.

Her lawyer Oksana Darova told AFP she would lodge a formal complaint about the remaining two reprimands.

Alyokhina and bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are serving two-year sentences for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for singing a "punk prayer" against Putin in the country's top church.

Court spokeswoman Medvedeva said the judge also ruled the prison service must correct its procedural violations in dealing with Alyokhina.

Alyokhina's public defender, rights activist Alexander Podrabinek, said the deputy head of the labour colony had admitted in court to altering internal documentation in order to issue reprimands.

"In practice, this was a falsification, although he did not use this word," Podrabinek told AFP.

Supporters hailed the result as a small but significant victory.

"This is a success, because even the slightest move in an inmate's favour in any such political case is quite a significant rarity," Podrabinek said.

"The court upheld Alyokhina's right to change the prison system and publicly reprimand (prison) management," the Voina (War) art collective closely affiliated with Pussy Riot wrote on Twitter.

Alyokhina said in court she wanted to defend her rights and those of her fellow inmates.

"I went to court for everyone who is powerless, everyone who is speechless, everyone who has been deprived of the right to speak by those who have been entrusted with power," the outspoken activist said in court Thursday in comments posted on the Echo of Moscow radio station website.

She lambasted the camp's rigorous daily regime, saying it was designed to break inmates and bring out their worst qualities.

"I believe that prisons reflect a general state of affairs in Russia. We all know what coercion, powerlessness and lawlessness is," she said.

Alyokhina has said in an interview with opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta that she had met a local rights ombudsman and complained that inmates did not have warm winter clothes and had to wash in cold water.

She said she had received death threats over her activism from long-serving prisoners who she believes cooperate with prison authorities.

Soon after the interview, the punk band's Twitter account said Alyokhina's camp had received a "huge shipment" of warm head scarves.

The Voina art collective said that in the small Urals town where she is serving time, Alyokhina was turning into something of a local celebrity.

"Residents of Berezniki like to say with straight faces: '(First president) Boris Yeltsin went to school in our town and now Maria Alyokhina is serving time here."

  • Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners 13 minutes ago
    Peeling out at Octane Academy, the free driving school for Ford ST owners

    Buyers of Ferraris or Jaguars are used to perks from manufacturers – including racetrack lessons to help master their exotic machines. But for enthusiasts on a tighter budget, the Ford ST Octane Academy might be the sweetest deal in motoring: Buy a Ford Fiesta ST or Focus ST hatchback, and the reward is a free day of training at one of America’s longest, most-lavish road courses.

  • Why you can't buy America's greenest car 3 hours ago
    Why you can't buy America's greenest car

    Ask me or any auto expert what's the fastest car you can buy for any given amount, and we could easily cough up several options. Same for most luxurious, or off-roadable, or any other measurement. Yet there's one type of question that's far harder to answer: What's the greenest, most environmentally friendly car you can buy today?

  • Audi TT Offroad concept debuts as a 124-mpg hybrid with wireless charging 4 hours ago
    Audi TT Offroad concept debuts as a 124-mpg hybrid with wireless charging

    The TT. Audi's diminutive sports car. Since production began in 1998, the two-door coupe has aged with the pugnacity of a grizzled New Yorker, but not in size. And why would it, as the arrival of the TT RS proved, adding some grit makes for a rather captivating dish. And so you'll excuse us for being puzzled by the Audi TT Offroad concept.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.