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MOSCOW, November 27 (Itar-Tass) — The Investigative Committee /SK/ opened five criminal cases over riots in the maximum security penitentiary in Kopeisk, Chelyabinsk region, and use of violence on special task force police, SK spokesman Vladimir Markin told Itar-Tass.
One criminal case was opened over extortion of money from inmates by prison personnel under threats of violence, Markin said.
On November 24, a 500-strong group of inmates at penitentiary # 6 refused to obey the demands by the prison administration and insisted on easing the regulations. The regional SK department launched a pre-investigation check. The inmates demand was backed by their relatives who had come to the penitentiary to lend support. Eight special task force police were injured when breaking up the illegal rally, the authorities reported.
"As present, a group of investigators has taken 41 statements from inmates. Many of them report extortion of 5,000 to 90,000 roubles by prison personnel in the period from 2008 through November 2012 by creating unfavorable conditions of imprisonment and threatening to use physical violence," the spokesman said.
On Tuesday, reports said the authorities had withdrawn the police cordon around the penitentiary.
Some thirty police had been on duty near the penitentiary and additional police units had been placed on the approaches to it. "The relatives have dispersed; the police cordon was called off as the situation normalized," Kopeisk police spokeswoman Nina Rusina told journalists.
Chelyabinsk region governor Mikhail Yurevich called the situation at the penitentiary tense. "It's difficult to clarify all the details of the incident. On the whole, the previous penitentiary system officials built the system which stirs up the whole country, what with mass cases of beating, humiliation and suicides."
Prosecutors are looking into the penitentiary riot.
Meanwhile, human rights activists differed in their opinion of the situation at the penitentiary. Differences were voiced among members of the Public Observer Commission /ONK/ of the Chelyabinsk region, which supervises the compliance with inmates' rights.
ONK chairman Anatoly Tarasyuk told Tass that he had not seen inmates with signs of torture or beatings during his visit to the prison.
"It was a prepared action with the view of securing the release of a criminal leader from punitive isolation ward," Tarasyuk said citing police information.
"There's a version that it was also an attempt to turn the prison from "red" /where the situation is under control of prison administration/ to "black" /where criminal leaders enjoy considerable influence"/.
"We've examined inmates together with medics; so signs of beating were detected," the ONK chairman said.
For their part, ONK members Valeria Prikhodkina and Tatyan Shchur claimed that the ONK members had not been allowed to enter the prison premises for three days.
Under federal legislation, at least two ONK members can visit penitentiary. "Anatoly Tarasyuk is a police veteran, and it's a big question whether he can champion human rights," Prikhodkina noted.
Prikhodkina and Shchur said inmates had repeatedly complained to them about being beaten, because of the extortion of money from their relatives.
"Yes, it's a pretty picture there; they have washing machines, microwaves and refrigerates. But who paid for it? Inmates relatives' did," Prikhodkina said. Inmates had also complained about low wages. "There’s a wood-working ship there and a foundry, but the latter pays 46 roubles per month, it follows that an inmate only works 20 minute a day," the ONK member said.
According to Tatyana Shchur, a criminal case had been opened against an inmate over "a false report." The inmate had complained to the ONK. "We're hoping the latest events will influence this case probe," she added.