International

Jailed Pussy Riot member found in Siberian prison hospital

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova undergoing 'extensive' treatment at tuberculosis hospital

Pyotr Verzilov hopes to meet with his wife in person, after speaking with her via video Friday.
NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/Getty Images

Jailed Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s husband, Pyotr Verzilov, told Al Jazeera Saturday that he has located his wife at a prison medical facility in Siberia, after not having heard from her since late October.

Tolokonnikova is currently “undergoing extensive diagnosis procedures and receiving treatment” at Regional Tuberculosis Hospital No. 1  in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk for “complications that happened at the end of her hunger strike," Verzilov said.

Tolokonnikova went on hunger strike on Sept. 23 to decry slave labor and death threats she had received at her previous penal colony in the western Russian region of Morodovia.

Verzilov spoke with his wife via video Friday from another building in the prison complex.

“She said she was doing fine and her health was ok,” Verzilov said, on the phone from Siberia, where he is petitioning for an in-person meeting with Tolokonnikova next week. Verzilov flew to Siberia earlier this week, after receiving a tip from a source close to the penitentiary system that his wife had arrived in Krasnoyarsk.

“So far the conditions (at the prison hospital) are satisfactory, unlike what she saw in Morodovia,” Verzilov said.

During the time that Tolokonnikova was out of communication with the outside world, she was “transferred in very strong isolation, via a variety of Russian cities, from central Russia en route to Siberia” – a distance of over 3,000 miles.

Verzilov has told Al Jazeera he sees his wife’s relocation and temporary isolation from the outside world as Russian authorities' retribution for her vocal protest against her conditions in prison.

Tolokonnikova and two other members of the dissident punk rock group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison for breaking into Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Feb. 2011 to perform a song they called a “punk prayer.” The song criticized Church leaders for supporting President Vladimir Putin in the run-up to his election.

"We are people who want to drastically change the political system in Russia and put an end to the Putin regime in this country," Verzilov told Al Jazeera earlier this month.

Tolokonnikova’s lawyer in the 2012 case that resulted in her imprisonment, Nikolai Polozov, told Al Jazeera earlier this month that her long prison transfer, cut off from communicating with her family, was retribution for the attention she continues to receive in international media.

But Verzilov says international attention is preventing authorities from harsher punishment against Tolkonnikova for her dissidence against the Putin administration and prison system.

Tolokonnikova is set to be released in early March. 

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