On 21 November 2014 at 9.00 in the Avtozavodskiy District Court of Nizhny Novrorod hearing on the merits of the case concerning six police officers from Nizhny Novgorod will start. Based on the investigation results six police officers are charged with several criminal episodes of exceeding official powers and one criminal episode of home invasion which took place in 2012. The court have already conducted preliminary hearings, it is expected that on Friday the prosecutor will read out the indictment to the accused, after which the procedure of the evidence examination shall be established.
(Nizami Gasanov and Elshan Zamanov)
As we have previously reported, on March 27, 2012 the Nizhny Novgorod office of the Committee Against Torture received applications from Nizami Gasanov and Elshan Zamanov alleging they were subjected to unlawful violence by the police officers of Police Department No. 1 of Nizhny Novgorod Department of Interior.
It took over two and a half years for investigators of the Investigative Committee to bring this case to trial.
«Such prolonged official investigation is explained by a number of challenges that the Investigative Committee officers had to face, – emphasized a lawyer with INGO «Committee Against Torture» Aleksey Matasov, who represented the interests of the victims. – These challenges involve the whole group of the accused who took part in different episodes, and a large number of the witnesses, and aggressive actions of the central office of the regional Department of Interior, which resulted in dismissal of one of the investigators from the case work. Despite all this the investigators of the first section of Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee for Nizhny Novgorod region have completed the preliminary investigation, having collected a considerable evidential basis. The indictment is over 1400 sheets».
From the very start the defendants took active measures for their defense and putting pressure on the progress of investigation, for which different media and administrative resources were engaged.
Thus the defendants succeeded in dismissal from the case work of investigator Yevgeny Khrokalo, who initiated the investigation. However later on the case materials were transferred to the regional department of the Investigative Committee and the investigation team comprising of three investigators was established. Its head Yury Yelantsev was able to stand firm against the pressure of the patrons of the police officers from Avtozavodsky region, and the case was brought to trial.
In the course of hearing dedicated to selecting a measure of restraint for the defendants Yelantsev told the court about the obstacles in the investigation of this case: «How are we supposed to work? Heads of criminal police come over and write personal sureties (in support of their subordinates – author’s note). The victims addressed to us two statements on applying to them measures of state protection since they are under apprehension of their lives. We applied to Central Internal Affairs Directorate, a Deputy Head of State Protection Division came to see us. He said: the viewpoint of Tsyganov (Viktor Tsyganov – former Deputy Head of Central Internal Affairs Directorate, suspended from his post in August 2013 after prisoners’ escape in Nizhny Novgorod region – author’s note) – «we don’t protect criminals». I have a question then: where else in Russia shall I apply for state protection? The state tells us: «Dear Investigative Committee, tell us why citizens are beaten up in the police? Sort this thing out!» We start to dig into it. And right away 23 generals show up who tell us that our performance is poor. No-one can guarantee the safety of the victims in this case now».
«The keynote of the police officers defense team both at the stage of the pre-trial investigation and in the course of the started court hearing is rather predictable – they were supposedly trying to stop the band of ethnic criminals, and the latter escaped responsibility with the help of the investigation, – tells the head of the investigations department of Nizhniy Novgorod branch of INGO «The Committee Against Torture» Dmitry Utukin, representing the interests of the victims. – Indeed, that’s a strange argumentation from persons charged in torture and illegal home invasion. If you have justified suspicions against any person about committing a crime the state provides you with a wide range of legal means for investigative work and gathering of evidence. Why not use them? However, it turns out that apparently it is a lot easier to obtain confessions through torture. By the way, as to the car theft case, in connection with which the police officers tried to «crack» Zamanov and Gasanov, altogether different persons have been brought to trial. Their verdicts have been passed and they are serving the sentence already».
Apart from applying torture the police officers’ charges include illegal invasion in the house of Gasanov’s family. In their defense the law-enforcement officers claim that «at request of Alimov (head of Criminal Investigation of Police Department No.1 of the Department of Interior for Nizhny Novgorod, one of the defendants, – author’s note) Gasanov wrote a permission for the house check». Again the argumentation looks strange to say the least, since the police officers could not have been unaware that the house check is conducted only on investigator’s order authorized by the court. The police officers had neither of those. In exceptional cases when the house search cannot be delayed it can be performed only on investigator’s order (afterwards the court has to check the legitimacy of such investigating action). However the law does not contain any assumptions like «if a citizen agrees to the house search then no other orders or authorizations are required». And the police officers could not have been unaware of that.
«The defendants put a special emphasis on the fact that due to this high-profile case the operation of Avtozavodskiy Police Department was disorganized. It’s worth noting that applying torture to the detained is a grave offence. If police departments employ people whose methods of work allow using violence against citizens we cannot be sure that the guilty of crimes will be convicted. What is more – real criminals will be at large. This kind of work improves only performance figures, but real crime rate is not getting any better», – Dmitry Utukin is convinced.