MOSCOW -- A judge in Siberia on Wednesday rejected an appeal by a member of the punk protest band Pussy Riot to be released temporarily so that she could be with her 5-year-old son while he was growing up, telling the courtroom that having a small child "did not prevent her from committing a serious crime."
The band member, Maria Alyokhina, 24, was defiant throughout her trial last summer in Moscow, and had reacted with a smile and a nod when she was sentenced to two years in a prison colony for performing a song critical of President Vladimir V. Putin in the city's main Orthodox cathedral. But at the end of Wednesday's hearing, she seemed near tears, at least for a moment.
By asking to defer the remaining year of her sentence until after her son, Filip, is 14, Ms. Alyokhina left herself vulnerable. According to news reports, her behavior in prison and her fitness as a parent were scrutinized in the Siberian courtroom, which was packed with journalists and supporters who had flown in from Moscow; the judge asked whether she had made sure that the boy was "well groomed" and "clean."
When she said she had enrolled her son in educational activities, the prosecutor asked for documentary proof. When she mentioned that she had taken the boy along to political events, he asked whether she had exposed the child to cold weather. In his closing statement, he said that as a prisoner, Ms. Alyokhina "has not taken an interest in the life or condition of her son," the Interfax news service reported. The prosecutor also said she did not hold a job before her arrest and should be considered "indigent."
Ms. Alyokhina said she refused to admit guilt or express regret over the Pussy Riot performance, and, by the end of the hearing, seemed to realize that she had little hope of success. "I would really like to see a small miracle and discover that there are live people in this courthouse who think about children," she said.
Amnesty International described the decision as "a further parody of justice," saying in a statement that Ms. Alyokhina and two other members of Pussy Riot who were convicted in August should not have faced criminal prosecution at all. The decision, the organization said, "once more proves that the Russian authorities are ready to suppress freedom of speech without any reservations."
The hearing attracted extraordinary attention to the city of Berezniki, more than 900 miles northeast of Moscow, where Ms. Alyokhina is incarcerated. The inmates in Correctional Camp No. 28, most of them convicted of drug offenses and violent crimes, spend their days sewing coats for police officers, inside a high concrete fence and coils of razor wire. The city is known for its giant sinkholes, the legacy of a collapsing potash mine, which have been known to swallow railroad boxcars and automobiles.
Riot police officers were brought in to guard the courthouse ahead of Wednesday's hearing, and a glass box was constructed in place of the metal cage that is traditionally used to hold Russian defendants. Alhough Ms. Alyokhina and Pussy Riot have been hailed by celebrities like Madonna and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to residents of Berezniki, they are both unfamiliar and a little alarming.
A camera crew from RIA Novosti, the state-owned Russian news agency, cruised the town soliciting opinions and discovered that the local priest had been offered police protection ahead of the hearing in case Pussy Riot supporters targeted him or his church. The local newspaper stopped covering Ms. Alyokhina's case because, its editor said, "we decided that people here didn't care."
It would have been unusual for the court to grant Ms. Alyokhina's request to defer the remainder of her sentence for nine years, though a 2010 case did provide a legal precedent. She clearly has had trouble adjusting to life in the prison colony, where she has received several official reprimands for oversleeping (she said on Wednesday that she had not heard her 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls). Late in November, prison authorities said she had been moved to a solitary cell after complaining about "negative attitudes on the part of the other prisoners," Interfax reported.
Olga Vinogradova, a friend of Ms. Alyokhina's, described her in an interview as an attentive parent who combed stores to make sure that her son's toys were wooden, not plastic, and was intent on enrolling Filip in a Waldorf school.
"She didn't want to constantly forbid things, but rather to explain, even though he was very small," she said. "She considered that every prohibition would only serve to make the child angry, that it wasn't the right way to raise him."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.