Ildar Dadin has claimed he was tortured and threatened with rape and murder. Russia's investigation committee has said it will probe the claims, but prison authorities have said Dadin has not suffered any injuries.
Anti-Kremlin activist Ildar Dadin described in a letter published Tuesday how on mutiple occasions he was beaten up and tortured by a host of guards in prison.
"They beat me four times that day, 10 to 12 people at a time, they were kicking me," Dadin wrote in the letter. "After the third beating, they put my head in the toilet bowl right in the isolation cell."
Ildar Dadin, 34, is serving a two-and-a-half year sentence in Russia's northwestern penal colony of Karelia. In December, he was the first person sentenced under a new law introduced after a wave of anti-Kremlin protests. The new law criminalizes anyone participating in more than two unsanctioned protests within 180 days.
The letter was snuck out of prison by his lawyer and published by his wife, Anastasia Zotova, in the independent Russian news portal, Meduza.
Dadin went on to write that he was handcuffed and hung up like a piece of meat, stripped naked and threatened with rape if he refused to stop a hunger strike. He had initiated his protest after being deprived of basic necessities, such as soap and toilet paper.
Guards also allegedly threatened that he would be murdered if he complained.
Dadin wrote that if he were subjected to similar treatment, "it's unlikely that I'll last more than a week."
"Regular beatings, bullying, humiliation, insults, intolerable detention conditions - it's happening to the other prisoners as well," Dadin wrote.
His wife had said on social media that she felt something was wrong when prison officials had refused to allow her to visit her husband in prison or speak to him on the phone.
Around 50 people picketed outside of the Federal Penitentiary Service in Mosow on Tuesday night, submitting requests for an investigation into Dadin's suspected mistreatment.
Russia's investigative committee to probe Dadin's claims
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Tuesday that the president would be informed of the allegations. "This is a case which merits the closest attention of the relevant authorities, in this case the prison service," Peskov said.
Meanwhile, the regional branch of Russia's investigative committee said it would probe Dadin's claims, according to Russian news agencies.
The regional prison services denied the allegations. Its deputy head told the Russian Interfax news agency that a medical investigator had found no injuries on Dadin. The same claims were echoed by Russia's human rights ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova, who said the activist had not "confirmed the beatings and threats," and that she had received photographs of Dadin that showed no signs of beatings.
Rights groups speak out
International rights groups have long decried the treatment of inmates in Russian prisons, which are often plagued by overcrowding and said to be rife with corruption.
Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, said in a statement: "We are urging Russian authorities to end the pattern of impunity for torture and other ill treatment and investigate Ildar Dadin's appalling allegations.
"They must also immediately and unconditionally release Ildar Dadin, and provide him with full remedy for the injustice done to him."
In his letter, Dadin also called on the Committee Against Torture, an NGO, to ensure both his safety and that of his inmates. Head of the committee Igor Kalyapin said he was working on receiving the necessary authorization to visit the prison.
However, he cautioned that "if Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service does not give me permission, no-one will let me in the prison," adding that he would fly out the minute he received the formal authorization.
dm/jm (Reuters, AFP)