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Tolokonnikova Joins Drive to Abolish British Prison Book Ban

Published: April 24, 2014 (Issue # 1807)



  • Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, center, has written in support of abolishing a ban on books for British inmates.
    Photo: S. Porter / Vedomosti

Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has given her backing to a campaign to persuade the British government to overturn a ban on books being sent to prison inmates.

Tolokonnikova, who was incarcerated for nearly two years after performing an anti-Putin song in Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012, was one of 10 writers and activists to call for improved access to books in prisons, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

"Because you have books, you know that every day you spend behind bars is not a day spent in vain," wrote Tolokonnikova, who has become a vocal campaigner for prisoners rights since her release from jail in December under a presidential amnesty.

According to regulations introduced by Westminster last November, British inmates are banned from receiving parcels sent from outside prison apart from under "exceptional circumstances" with books, magazines and clothes all prohibited under the new rules.

British Justice Minister Chris Grayling recently defended the ban in an open letter to poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, a critic of the ban, saying it was necessary to prevent contraband from being smuggled into prisons.

"When you are free you don't have such a painful desire to read as you have in prison," wrote Belarussian journalist Iryna Khalip, who was detained for criticizing her country's regime. "You can get any book at home, in the shops or from the Internet. In prison books become the air. Your body needs air to breathe. No books you cannot breathe. And if you cannot breathe there is no life."

Nigerian journalist Kunle Ajibade, who spent 3 ½ years in prison, also criticized the ban, writing: "I bear witness to the therapy that books give in moments of gloom. Why would anyone who truly cares for humanity want to deny a prisoner a mind builder?"

The 10 writers' accounts have been published to coincide with World Book Night, a charitable event held annually on Apr. 23 to encourage open access to literature.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 28


Learn more about the citys upcoming municipal elections during the presentation of the project Road Map for the Municipal Elections being presented this evening in the conference hall on the third floor of Biblioteka at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. Steve Kaddins, a coordinator for Beautiful St. Petersburg, which gives residents an online forum to lodge complaints about infrastructure problems in the city, will be on hand to answer any questions. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. and is open to all.



Friday, Aug. 29


Park Pobedy will feature the sights and sounds of the world outside of Russia during the Open Art International Festival today. Taste foreign cuisine, learn how to make tea like the Chinese or relax in a hammock during the free event. Although entrance is free, you must register beforehand if you wish to attend.



Saturday, Aug. 30


Break out the tweed and channel your inner Englishman during the English Hunt Picnic this afternoon organized by the Bagmut stables from Krasny Bor in the Leningrad Oblast. Equestrian stunts, English archery and classic hunting fashion will all be available to visitors hoping to live like the characters in Downton Abbey if only for a day. Tickets for the event cost 7,900 rubles ($219.40).


Bookworms will have their chance to swap out well-read classics for something new for their bookshelves at Knigovorot, a free book exchange that will be held in the Yusupov Garden on Sadovaya Ulitsa today. Come for the chance to get a new book or take the opportunity to discuss the literary merits of your favorite authors with fellow fans.



Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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