Russian journalist 'beaten to death in police custody'

A Russian journalist died after being beaten in police custody, authorities and colleagues said.

Russian journalist 'beaten to death in police custody'

A Russian journalist died on Wednesday after being beaten in police custody, authorities and colleagues said, deepening concern about police abuses after a string of scandals involving violence and corruption.

Fellow journalists in the Siberian city of Tomsk, about 3,100 km (1,900 miles) east of Moscow, said Konstantin Popov, 47, was also tortured by his assailant and called for the dismissal of top regional police officials.

The federal Investigative Committee, which did not identify the victim except by age, said he was hospitalized on Jan. 4 with severe injuries to internal organs after being beaten by an officer in a police holding cell for drunks.

He died without emerging from a coma, the committee said on its website sledcomproc.ru.

The chairman of the Tomsk branch of the Union of Journalists of Russia, Alexei Sevastyanov, said that Popov was violated with an object he would not identify.

"He was tortured," Sevastyanov told Reuters.

The alleged assailant, Alexei Mitayev, 26, has been charged with aggravated assault and abuse of authority, the Investigative Committee said.

Russian media said Mitayev had admitted to the beating and cited stress linked to his family life and personal situation. He has been dismissed from the police service, they added.

Attacks on Russian journalists who challenge the authorities or expose corruption are frequent but police did not cite a possible motive.

Popov was a co-founder and director of development of the regional magazine and newspaper publisher Tema, and its editor-in-chief Konstantin Karpachyov said it was unlikely that Popov was killed because of his work.

"This could happen to absolutely anyone," Karpachyov said by telephone. "It demonstrates that the police terror is aimed against everybody."

Since 2000, at least 17 Russian journalists have been killed in retaliation for their work, and the killers have been convicted in only one case, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Recent outbursts of police violence, from drunken shooting sprees to bludgeoning a man to death, have added to widely negative perceptions of law enforcement officers in Russia, fuelled by mounting evidence of corruption.

Last month, President Dmitry Medvedev said police misconduct was sparking public anger and undermining the state's authority. He called for serious reform and ordered the 1.4 million-strong Interior Ministry staff cut by one-fifth by 2012.

Reuters
Last Mod: 20 Ocak 2010, 20:19
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