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Russian court denies Pussy Riot's Maria Alekhina parole, despite support from McCartney

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MOSCOW - A Russian court denied parole on Thursday to a member of the Pussy Riot punk group.

The ruling came despite letters that singers Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel and Patti Smith have sent, urging Russia's courts to free Maria Alekhina and the other Pussy Riot still in prison, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova.

In its ruling on Thursday, a court in Perm province accepted a claim by prosecutors that Alekhina had systematically disobeyed prison authorities and failed to repent for her crime, Russian media reported.

Alekhina went on a hunger strike Wednesday after being barred from the hearing, even though the court is across the street from the prison colony where she is serving her sentence for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred." She also ordered her defence not to participate.

Band members Alekhina, Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich gained worldwide notoriety last year when a Moscow court jailed them for two years for conducting a punk protest in Moscow's main cathedral.

Samtusevich was later released on appeal.

A lawyer for Alekhina said the artist would appeal Thursday's ruling.

The parole decision came despite two letters dated Monday by McCartney, the former Beatles' star, asking for both jailed Pussy Riot members to be released.

McCartney mailed the letters to a court n Mordovia that had denied Tolokonnikova parole last month, and they were posted on online by Pussy Riot supporters. In them, McCartney asks for parole to be granted to Alekhina and Tolokonnikova.

The singer wrote that he was making the request "in a spirit of friendship for my many Russian acquaintances who, like me, believe in treating people — all people, with compassion and kindness."

Alekhina's lawers also had copies of the support letters that Gabriel and Smith had written.

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