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Investigators deny refusing to address inmate complaints of extortion and beatings at Kopeisk penitentiary

December 04, 2012, 13:05 UTC+3

Despite contrary reports,the Investigative Committee claims appropriate actions were taken

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MOSCOW, December 4 (Itar-Tass) — Investigators denied the reports alleging their refusal to open criminal cases on the strength of Kopeisk penitentiary inmates' complaints.

"The reports by a number of Internet media alleging the resolutions not to open criminal cases at inmates' statements and a formal check into them are not true," an Investigative Committee /SK/ official told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

"A complete set of necessary investigation actions is being taken in these criminal cases; by their results, the guilty officials will be ascertained and arraigned," he 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.

The 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 Tass.

One criminal case was opened over extortion of money from inmates by prison personnel under threats of violence," the spokesman said.

"An SK group for the Chelyabinsk region that worked at the Kopeisk prison, took more than 120 reports from inmates, many of which tell about extortion by prison staff of the sums ranging from 5,000 to 90,000 roubles in the period from 2008 through November 2012, under the threat of creating hard prison conditions or use of physical violence," the SK said.

In addition, the SK is looking into the reasons behind the inmates' disobedience.

Human rights activists earlier 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 Tatyana 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 and extortion of money from their relatives.



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