MOSCOW, November 27 (Itar-Tass) — Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said inmates at Kopeisk penitentiary # 6 had complained to him about beatings and extortions.
"At present, our representatives are working there /at penitentiary # 6/; they have not finished work yet; it will last for two or three more days. Lukin said human rights activists had reported similar complaints earlier.
"The prison administration is cooperating with us; First Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service Eduard Petrukhin visited it, and we've kept a permanent contact; he was one of those who provided information. So we have information from three sources: the Federal Penitentiary Service, rights activists and our own representatives," Lukin said.
"At present, all members of the Public Observer Commission, a human rights watchdog at penitentiaries, have been allowed to enter the prison. Yesterday, the situation was different," the ombudsman said.
"Complaints about beatings and extortions /from relatives/ came from other Chelyabinsk region prisons. We haven’t' checked prison # 6, but we checked the first; we have complaints from the 1st, 10th and 11th penitentiaries. These complaints have been reviewed and forwarded to the Chelyabinsk region prosecutor," Lukin added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Investigation Committee /SK/ said it had opened five criminal cases over Kopeisk prison riots and use of violence on special task force police.
SK spokesman Vladimir Markin confirmed that one case had been opened over extortion of money from inmates by prison personnel under threats of violence.
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.
Chelyabinsk region governor Mikhail Yurevich called the situation "tense."
Members of the Public Observer Commission /ONK/ of the Chelyabinsk region expressed different opinion about the incident.
ONK chairman Anatoly Tarasyuk told Tass that he had not seen inmates with signs of torture or beatings during his visit to the prison, but two ONK members, contradicted him, saying that they doubted that Tarasyuk, a police veteran, could be impartial as head of the Commission.
"It was a prepared action with the view of securing the release of a criminal leader from punitive isolation ward," Tarasyuk claimed 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"/.
ONK members Valeria Prikhodkina and Tatyana Shchur said they had not been allowed to enter the prison premises for three days.