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Russian court rules to keep Pussy Riot member in jail

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (C), Maria Alyokhina (R) and Yekaterina Samutsevich in court, July 20, 2012
Picture taken on July 20, 2012 shows members of the all-girl punk band Pussy Riot Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (C), Maria Alyokhina (R) and Yekaterina Samutsevich during a court hearing in Moscow. A Russian court on Friday ruled to keep Tolokonnikova in prison,

A Russian court Friday ruled to keep a member of punk band Pussy Riot in prison, after she appealed an earlier decision denying her release on parole from her sentence over a church protest against President Vladimir Putin.

The Supreme court in the region of Mordovia upheld an earlier court decision to deny parole to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, said art group Voina, which is closely associated with Pussy Riot and followed the hearing on Twitter.

A spokeswoman for the Mordovia supreme court confirmed to AFP that the ruling left the earlier decision of a regional court unchanged.

A court in April turned down Tolokonnikova's parole request because of reprimands issued in the penal colony and her refusal to repent.

Tolokonnikova, 23, is serving her sentence in a prison colony in the region of Mordovia some 500 kilometres (300 miles) southeast of Moscow.

She and her bandmate Maria Alyokhina were sentenced to two years in a penal colony last August after they sang a "Punk Prayer" against the Russian Orthodox Chuch's close ties with Putin in Moscow-based Church of Christ the Saviour, Russia's top cathedral, in February 2012.

A court in April turned down Tolokonnikova's parole request because of reprimands issued in the colony and her refusal to admit guilt.

On Friday, Tolokonniva said she would not repent and vowed to continue fighting her jail sentence.

"I will be contesting my sentence in courts of every level until the very end and will not admit guilt," she said in court in the regional capital of Saransk.

The feisty punk rocker pointed to persistent differences with prison management, saying she was reproached for refusing to participate in a beauty contest in her penal colony.

"From the colony's point of view, if you don't participate in the 'Miss Charm' beauty contest then you do not have an active life position," she was quoted as saying by Voina.

"My position on aesthetics clearly differs from the aesthetics of the head of the colony, the aesthetics of the Putin regime," she said from a defendant's cage.

Tolokonnikova's husband Pyotr Verzilov said that security standing guard near her cage were rotating every 15 minutes. "Probably the guards cannot take it for longer," he said on Twitter.

On Wednesday a regional court in the industrial city of Perm, more than 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) east of Moscow, denied parole to Alyokhina. Both women have small children.

The convictions of the women on charges of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred have been denounced as disproportionate by many liberal Russians and public figures around the world, from music legend Paul McCartney to Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 100 famous musicians including Madonna, Elton John and Sting signed an open letter released on Monday appealing for the women to be freed.

The third Pussy Riot member to be convicted, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was freed on appeal with a suspended sentence after her lawyer argued she was grabbed by guards in the Moscow church before she could actually take part in the protest.

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