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Court's refusal to grant parole to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova appealed

6 May 2013 


Source: HRO.org (info
Agora Human Rights Association reports that two appeals have been filed with the Supreme Court of Mordovia against the decision by the Zubovo-Poyansky district court to reject a parole application by member of the Pussy Riot music group Nadezhda Tolokonnikova. Lawyers Irina Khrunova and Dmitry Dinze are asking the Judicial Division for Criminal Cases of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mordovia to overturn the decision of Judge Lidia Yakovleva and grant parole to Tolokonnikova, 23 and currently serving her sentence in Penal Colony 14 of the Federal Penitentiary Service Directorate of Mordovia. 

The lawyers point out that these are the first two appeals filed against the decision by the district court, and in the near future a further two will be submitted. They argue that the Zubovo-Poyansky District Court has still not sent them the legal ruling, so they were forced to appeal the rejection of the parole application without having the actual decision in their possession. Furthermore, the court registry promised the lawyers they would send the document by 29 April, and to email a copy of it. 

Refusal to admit guilt 

Lawyer Irina Khrunova says that one of the reasons the court decided to keep Nadezhda Tolokonnikova behind bars was the fact that she has refused to admit her guilt. She stresses that such a reason is "not lawful, contradicts the position expressed by the highest judicial organ of the Russian Federation, and also requires the convicted woman to give up her legal rights and obligations." 

The Constitutional Court has repeatedly said that the law forbids making the question of parole dependent on the remorse of the person convicted of the crime. 

The Supreme Court takes the same stance: "Judges do not have the right to reject parole appeals or replace the remaining part of a sentence with a more lenient punishment on grounds not set out in the law, such as previous convictions, the leniency of the punishment, the refusal of the convicted person to admit their guilt, the short length of their stay in one of the prison establishments, etc. (Paragraph 6 of the Decision by the Plenum of the Supreme Court of 21 April 2009 N 8 "On the judicial practice of granting parole and replacing the remaining part of a sentence with a more lenient punishment"). 

The defence lawyers repeatedly made reference to this Supreme Court position in the court hearing of 26 April 2013, which considered Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's parole appeal. The court, however, ignored it. 

Tolokonnikova's character report from the penal colony states that she repeatedly had individual educational discussions on the topic of admitting one's guilt. It also states that in spite of this, Tolokonnikova refused to admit her guilt. At the court session on 26 April, representatives of the penal colony administration did not deny this fact and told the court that a refusal by the convicted person to admit their guilt is regarded as an obstacle to granting them parole. In delivering their judgement, the court sided with the position of the administration, which the defence sees as a direct contradiction of the position of the Constitutional Court. Constitutional Court Ruling No. 274-O-O of 1 March 2012 states that every convicted person has the right to have their sentence reviewed by a higher court in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Law, including in cases where the convicted person does not admit their guilt and denies there was a criminal element in their actions. In this case the convicted person has the right to appeal the sentence, even if it has already come into legal force. 

"Currently, in rejecting Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's parole appeal on the grounds that she has not admitted her guilt and shows no remorse, the Zubovo-Poyansky District Court is in essence forcing my client to make a choice: either to give up on the opportunity of filing a parole appeal with the court, or to give up appealing the guilty verdict, thereby to all intents and purposes ruling out any possibility of having it reviewed by a higher court," says lawyer Khrunova. "The decision by the court is forcing Tolokonnikova to renounce her right to appeal the verdict, which is not allowed under the law." 

Acts, family, work 

The lawyer points out that at the time the offence was committed there was no use of violence, no material damage was caused, no legal claims were brought in the case and in the verdict the court did not establish any aggravating circumstances for Tolokonnikova. She says that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has employment in Penal Colony 14 and the prison has given her a positive employment reference. The administration indicated that Tolokonnikova tries hard to meet the production rate and there is no criticism of her from any of the production staff. The lawyer says that if her motion to be released on parole is granted, Tolokonnikova will have employment at her place of residence in Moscow, for which the she can present the relevant documentation (letters of guarantee). 

The lawyer is also asking for Tolokonnikova's family situation to be taken into account: she is married with a young daughter Gera, who was born in 2008. 

"With her behaviour Tolokonnikova has demonstrated, and continues to demonstrate, that she poses no threat to society and does not need to be kept in prison any longer," Khrunova concludes. 

Disciplinary measures and health 

In the appeal, lawyer Dmitry Dinze explained in detail that at the time of the consideration of Tolokonnikova’s parole request, she did not have any disciplinary measures that were outstanding against her, and that the court should take his client's health into account. 
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