Eighteen dismissals after torture scandal in Russian prison

After a scandal sparked by the dissemination of videos showing systematic rape and acts of torture in a prison in Russia, eighteen employees were dismissed from their posts, the Russian prison services announced on Wednesday.

At the beginning of October, the NGO Gulagu.net published videos obtained thanks to a whistleblower, a former Belarusian prisoner who had access to these recordings during his detention, under the guise of computer maintenance activities, and who requested from asylum in France.

Eleven people prosecuted

These images show in particular the rape of a detainee using a pole in a prison hospital in Saratov. These revelations led to the resignation of the head of the local prison services, the dismissal of officials from the penitentiary concerned and the opening of five investigations. On Wednesday, the acting director of the prison administration of the Saratov region, Anton Efarkin, said 18 officials had been dismissed and 11 were being prosecuted for “the most serious” disciplinary violations.

“We are doing everything to shed light and come to the necessary conclusions, I am sure that will not happen again in the future,” he assured local public television GTRK. The day before, the Gulagu.net project published other videos showing rapes in this prison hospital in Saratov.

An arrest warrant against the whistleblower

The Russian prison system is very regularly marred by torture scandals, committed in an almost institutionalized manner by guards or other detainees at their orders, in particular in order to obtain confessions under duress. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reaffirmed Wednesday to the press that “verifications” were underway after the scandal, adding that the “system had reacted”.

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The whistleblower Sergei Savalev asked for political asylum in France, saying he feared reprisals from the Russian authorities who issued an arrest warrant against him. He is being criminally prosecuted for “improper access” to computer data, according to documents on the site of a court in Saratov. But his arrest warrant was recently challenged by the regional prosecutor, again according to this source.

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