Head of the Criminal Investigations of the Vetluga Police Department of the Nizhny Novgorod region Anton Merlugov is named as a suspect in a criminal case on torture and battery of the citizens of the Vetluga District of the Nizhny Novgorod region. Previously, another criminal case was open with regard to him based on the facts of threatening a local citizen with forging a criminal case against him for storage of drugs. At the present time Merlugov is suspended from duty.
As we have previously reported, Pavel Yakushev and Ivan Belov from Vetluga claim to have been beaten up by the police officers during apprehension in April 2017, and, in addition, physical violence was applied against Yakushev at the Vetluga Police Department. According to Yakushev, after he was taken to the criminal investigations room, one of the police officers broke his mobile phone and then started to beat Pavel up. Yakushev claims that during his beating materials at hand were used – he was hit by the panel of the desk drawer, as well as with the electrical heater.
According to the expert’s conclusion, numerous bodily injuries were registered on Yakushev: two injuries in the parieto-occipital region on the left and in parietal region, a bruise and an extravasation of suprascapular area on the left, extravasations of the iliac region on the left, injury of the third finger of the left hand, injury of the right hand, abrasion of the left knee joint, hemorrhaging under the nail bed and into the soft tissues of the nail bone of the first finger of the right hand.
Ivan Belov was registered with a hematoma and a swell of the soft tissues in the eyelid area, a hematoma in the region of the earflap, a hematoma and a bruise in the area of the back. In addition, according to Ivan, after the police officer hit his face he developed problems with his eyesight. Ophthalmologist diagnosed him with rhegmatogenous detachment of the retina and epiretinal fibrosis.
The investigation and the court did not establish Yakushev and Belov’s involvement in the theft. They both participated in the court hearing in the capacity of witnesses. Only the initiator of the night march to the sawmill – he was declared guilty of an attempted theft and sentenced to two hundred and fifty hours of compulsory community service.
On 27 April 2017, the Urensky Investigative Department started pre-investigative check based on the complaint of the citizens from Vetluga against the unlawful actions of the police officers. Different investigators conducted some activities, however, they were obviously insufficient to establish whether the actions of the police officers contained element of crime. With regard to this, the refusals to initiate criminal proceedings issued by the police officers were repeatedly quashed.
The red tape with the complaint of the citizens from Vetluga led to the fact Ivan Belov was questioned by the investigator from Uren only seven months after the check commenced, in December 2017. And it happened only after the application of the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture addressed to Deputy Head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Nizhny Novgorod region Dmitry Kanonerov.
After activation of the investigation, the police officers whom the applicants accuse of the battery, manifested themselves. According to Ivan Belov, on 30 January of this year the police officers came to his work and started to talk him into changing his complaints against the law-enforcement officers. Ivan did not agree and left, but on the same evening he was apprehended near his house and taken to the police department, allegedly, on suspicion of storing drugs.
During search of personal belongings of Belov, no illegal items or substances were found. However, according to Belov, head of local Criminal Investigations Anton Merlugov warned him: “Do you realize that it was only the “rehearsal”? Next time it may end differently, next time something will definitely will be found!”.
Ivan perceived this as a real threat by the police officers. He informed the lawyers with the Committee Against Torture about what happened, and on the next day he resigned from his job and left the town.
Taking into account the situation, human rights defenders applied to head of the regional investigative department Andrey Vinogradov. He listened to the applicant attentively and ordered to hand over the material of the check to the proceedings of the first department for major cases investigation of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Nizhny Novgorod region.
On 3 March 2018, investigator on major cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Nizhny Novgorod region Aleksey Shoshin opened a criminal case under item “a” Part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office with the use of violence”). Later on human rights defenders handed over six more complaints from the citizens of the Vetluga district concerning police torture.
And on 14 September of this year a criminal case was opened based on the fact of threatening Ivan Belov. Today, human rights defenders received a copy of this ruling – it says that the criminal case under part 1 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office”) is initiated with regard to head of the Vetluga Police Department of the Nizhny Novgorod region Anton Merlugov.
Yesterday, investigator Aleksey Shoshin notified lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vladimir Smirnov that Anton Merlugov is named as a defendant in the case on torture and battery, as well. Both criminal cases are joined in one proceeding.
“We are satisfied that, at last, there appeared the first suspect in the torture case, – lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vladimir Smirnov comments. – We hope that the investigation will not only provide an appropriate legal evaluation of Anton Merlugov’s actions, but will review the actions of the superiors of this police department through the prism of the criminal law”.