Jailed Pussy Riot Women Could Be Freed Thursday, Thanks To Russian Amnesty Bill

Thanks to the passing of a Russian amnesty bill Wednesday, jailed Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina could be released from jail as early as Thursday. The bill will see early release for the women, along with dozens of jailed Greenpeace activists and up to 25,000 others. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina are each serving two-year prison terms for a Pussy Riot performance critical of President Vladimir Putin, which saw them charged with hooliganism.

The law goes into effect Thursday, and Tolokonnikova's husband thinks both women could be out of prison as soon as the legislation is made official. "The situation entirely depends on whether the administrations of their penal colonies want their soonest release, but I think they would not like to procrastinate the release process for the two girls," said Irina Khrunova, their lawyer.

According to reports, the Pussy Riot members would qualify for amnesty because they have young children. The amnesty also covers pensioners, juvenile offenders, and first-time offenders convicted of various misdemeanors.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina were originally convicted of hooliganism in August 2012, which is considered a “various misdemeanor” and would also make them eligible for amnesty under this new law.

This is very welcome news. Not only were their reasons for being in jail in the first place questionable, to say the least, their alleged treatment in prison was nothing short of awful. Bustle reported on Tolokonnikova’s hunger strike in protest of the prisoner treatment.

Tolokonnikova, who is part-way through her two-year sentence for “hooliganism,” writes that the Mordovia camp in which she’s been imprisoned treats the inmates like slaves, and refuses to accept her complaints. Finding no other option, she writes, she has decided to starve herself until she is heard.

“I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves,” Tolokonnikova says in the letter.

According to Tolokonnikova, prisoners are forced to work for over 16 hours a day in the sewing shop, at best getting only four hours of sleep a night, and inmates who aren’t able to keep up are degraded and abused.

At one point, Tolokonnikova even “disappeared” — her family wasn't notified that she had been transferred to another prison. As we reported:

Both women only had months left on their sentencing before being freed, but, needless to say, this bill is very good news for them.