Jailed Russian female punk rock member loses parole appeal
PERM, Russia (Reuters) - A member of Russian female punk group Pussy Riot lost her appeal for parole on Wednesday after nearly a year in prison for performing a protest song against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.
Maria Alyokhina's appeal against a previous decision to deny her early release from a two-year jail sentence was rejected by a court in the city of Perm, where she is serving her sentence, about 1,500 km (940 miles) east of Moscow.
Alyokhina, 25, and two other Pussy Riot members were convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred in August for bursting into the Russian Orthodox cathedral and belting out a "punk prayer" asking the Virgin Mary to rid Russia of Putin.
Madonna, Paul McCartney and Adele were among more than 100 musicians to sign a letter calling for their release that was published by Amnesty International on Tuesday.
The rights watchdog said Wednesday's ruling was "a further confirmation that the Russian authorities are uncompromising in their suppression of freedom of expression".
The case is seen as part of a wider crackdown on protests since Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012.
Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, are due for release in March. Both mothers of five-year-olds were denied pleas for a deferred sentence until their children are older.
A third member of the feminist group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was freed last October when a judge suspended her sentence on appeal.
(Reporting by Catherine Koppel; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)