Yesterday, on 9 August 2016, at the final stage of the judicial investigation judge of the Dzerzhinskiy District Court of Orenburg satisfied a motion of State Prosecutor Svetlana Trofimova on returning the criminal case with regard to two criminal investigators Albert Akmanov and Vasily Zoubikhin, accused of tortures, back to the Prosecutor’s Office to rectify the breaches of the criminal and procedural law. Human rights defenders from the Committee for Prevention of Torture, representing the victims’ interests in this case, intend to appeal against this court ruling, because they consider the State Prosecutor’s arguments to be groundless and do not see any obstacles for further examination of the case in court.
(Photo: lawyer of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Evgeny Litvinov and one of the victims Anton Ferapontov)
As we have previously reported, on 27 August 2008 Vyacheslav Sadovskiy, Maksim Nimatov and Anton Ferapontov applied to the Orenburg office of the Committee Against Torture. They reported to human rights defenders that on 25 August 2008 they were detained by the police, taken to the Dzerzhinskiy District Department of Internal Affairs where they were battered and brutally tortured. For the whole night police officers were trying to obtain confession statements from them related to a number of different crimes: from the robbery of the beer stand to murder of the police officer. According to the applicants, in addition to «standard» battery the police put gas masks on their heads and blew cigarette smoke into the tube, hung them by the hands and legs tied behind their backs, everything was accompanied by battery with truncheons.
The victims state that the tortures lasted till the morning of August 26. The detainees were deprived of sleep and if they started falling asleep they were hit on the head.
The victims’ parents and other relatives, having accidentally learned that their sons are detained by the police, kept the watch near the building of the Dzerzhinsky District Police Department. It is worth pointing out the fact that for a long time the police tried to convince them that their sons were not in the building of the District Police Department. Only by the evening of 26 August the police allowed the lawyers to see the young men.
Despite the fact that the police officers threatened them with harsher treatment in case they change their testimony, the young men in the presence of the lawyers reported that they were forced to incriminate themselves under torture and to sign some documents.
The police officers illegally detained the young men for over 24 hours without making any charges. After the young men were released they first went to the first-aid station, and then to hospital, where the doctors registered all numerous bodily injuries: all the three were diagnosed with hematomas, bruises, joints dislocations, one of them was diagnosed with cerebral concussion, Vyacheslav Sadovsky had a broken rib, and Anton Ferapontov had a broken nose.
On the next day all the three young men and their parents applied to the investigative authorities with a crime report. The victims also applied to the Committee Against Torture for legal help.
Despite the traumas, confirmed by medical documents and numerous testimonies of witnesses who saw the young men without any bodily injuries at the moment of their apprehension, and testimonies of witnesses who saw the beaten up victims covered in blood taken out from the building of the Dzerzhinsky District Police Department, the investigative authorities dragged their heels initiating the criminal case. The check of the crime report that should have been conducted within three days lasted over five and a half years. No less than seventeen times the Investigative Department issued refusals to initiate criminal proceedings, which were declared illegal after the Committee Against Torture lawyers’ complaints.
Human rights defenders also managed to prove in court that the young men’s apprehension was illegal and to collect from the state the compensation for moral damage incurred by this illegal action.
Taking into account the persistent reluctance of the investigative authorities to investigate this incident at the national level, in spring of 2014 the members of the Committee Against Torture had to lodge a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of the applicants. Practically at the same time when it was lodged on 9 April 2014 the investigative authority initiated the criminal case based on the fact described above. The investigation of the case was assigned to the first department for investigation of major cases of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee of the RF for the Orenburg region.
On 17 December of last year the Dzerzhinsky District Court of Orenburg started to examine this case. For eight months of judicial investigation fifteen court hearings were conducted, during which all the evidence available in the case were examined, the defendants, victims and numerous witnesses were questioned. Judicial investigation, as main part of the judicial proceedings, was conducted in full scope.
Oral arguments were scheduled for 5 August of this year. However, in the course of this court hearing State Prosecutor Svetlana Trofimova submitted a motion asking to return the criminal case to the Prosecutor’s Office to rectify the breaches of the indictment. In the opinion of Mrs Trofimova it was not complete: no details of illegal actions of each of the defendants were provided, since the defendants’ actions correlate with the bodily injuries of each of the victims, which is a violation of the defendants’ right to know what exactly they are accused of.
«It is no secret that the State Prosecutor’s motion to return the criminal case to the Prosecutor came as a surprise to us. When we were busy preparing for oral arguments, the Prosecutor’s Office and the court postponed the outcome of this case to an indefinite period. In our opinion, claims against the indictment which were indicated in Mrs Trofimova’s motion, are ungrounded. Moreover, a fair question arises on what prevented the Prosecutor’s Office from rectifying these breaches at the stage of the indictment check eight months ago, – lawyer of the Committee for Prevention of Torture Evgeny Litvinov, representing the interests of the victims, comments. – Let us not forget that less than in two years the statute of limitation for bringing the defendants to responsibility expires. With regard to the fact that the case was being examined by the court for over eight months we submitted a statement asking to expedite the criminal case examination, but now there is a risk that the criminal case can altogether fail to reach the final stage. As to our position concerning the court ruling, which satisfied the Prosecutor’s Office motion; we intend to appeal against it, since we do not see any obstacles for examining the criminal case on its merits».