World Bulletin / News Desk
A Russian activist jailed for staging solo anti-government protests claimed in a letter published Tuesday that he was beaten and threatened with rape and murder in prison.
Ildar Dadin, a 34-year-old serving a two-and-a-half year sentence at a prison in Russia's northwestern region of Karelia, was the first person to be imprisoned under a new law that punishes repeated participation in unsanctioned rallies with jail time.
In a letter to his wife published Tuesday on Meduza, an independent Russian news portal based in Latvia, Dadin said that on the second day of his detention in September, the prison governor and three other employees came to his cell and began beating him.
"They beat me four times that day, 10 to 12 people at a time, they were kicking me," Dadin said in the letter, transcribed by his lawyer Alexei Liptser on Monday.
"After the third beating, they put my head in the toilet bowl right in the isolation cell."
Dadin also said that prison workers had hung him by his handcuffs for half an hour and pulled his underwear down, threatening him with rape if he refused to stop a hunger strike he had begun after being deprived of basic necessities such as soap and toilet paper.
Dadin added that he was not the only detainee being mistreated and that he had been threated with death if he complained.
"Constant beatings, bullying, humiliation, insults, intolerable detention conditions -- this also happens to the other inmates," Dadin wrote.
Putin 'informed' of claims
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that President Vladimir Putin would be informed of the allegations.
The regional branch of Russia's investigative committee said it would probe Dadin's claims, Russian news agencies reported.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International have called for Dadin's release and a thorough investigation into his claims.
"We are urging Russian authorities to end the pattern of impunity for torture and other ill treatment and investigate Ildar Dadin's appalling allegations," Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International Russia, said in a statement.
"They must also immediately and unconditionally release Ildar Dadin, and provide him with full remedy for the injustice done to him."
Some 50 people went to the Moscow headquarters of the Federal Penitentiary Service on Tuesday night to submit requests for an investigation into Dadin's mistreatment, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
One protester staging a solo picket held up a sign that read: "Stop torture, freedom to Dadin."
In his letter, Dadin also called on the Committee Against Torture -- an NGO that has been targeted by authorities in their broader crackdown against civil society -- to ensure his safety as well as that of other inmates.
The head of the committee, Igor Kalyapin, told AFP he was working on receiving the authorisation required to visit the prison.
"If Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service does not give me permission, no-one will let me in the prison," he said, adding he was ready to fly out the minute he receives a formal authorisation.
An unnamed official from the regional penitentiary service told Novaya Gazeta opposition newspaper that prison guards had used "physical force" against Dadin after he "rudely refused to leave his cell and be searched, tugging at the guards' uniforms".
But Russia's human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova told TASS state news agency that the head of the regional prison service had spoken to Dadin and the activist had not "confirmed the beatings and threats".
Moskalkova said she had received photographs of Dadin that showed no signs of beatings.
International rights groups have decried inmates' treatment in Russian prisons, which are often overcrowded and rife with corruption.
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