Police apologized to the victims after human rights defenders complained to the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of the Interior. From the moment of the verdict of the guilty nine months passed, and before that the authority was not in a hurry to implement this norm.
The verdict of former head of the Criminal Investigations of the Vetluga Police Department of the Nizhny Novgorod region Anton Merlugov came into legal force on 23 December 2020, when the Nizhny Novgorod Regional Court upheld the first instance court ruling. Previously, on 18 September 2020, the Urensky District Court sentenced Merlugov to five and a half years of conditional term. He was declared guilty of three episodes of abuse of authority, including with the use of violence (one episode under part 1 of Article 286, two episodes under part “a” of Part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code).
Pavel Yakushev and Ivan Belov from Vetluga informed human rights defenders that they were beaten up by the police officers during apprehension in April 2017. Later on, the police officers hit Yakushev with the panel of the desk drawer, as well as with the electrical heater at the Vetluga Police Department. According to the expert’s conclusion, numerous bodily injuries were registered on Yakushev.
According to Ivan Belov, during the pre-investigative check, two police officers came to his work. The law-enforcement officers tried to “negotiate” and force him to withdraw his claims, and after he refused, on the same evening he was apprehended near his house after the anonymous call and taken to the Vetluga police department. After search of personal belongings of Belov, Anton Merlugov warned him that next time something will definitely would be found.
On 3 March 2018, the regional Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee 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”). On 14 September, the criminal case based on the facts of threatening Ivan Belov was opened, too. The investigative authorities qualified actions of Anton Merlugov under part 1 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“abuse of office”). On 9 September 2020, defendant Merlugov acknowledged his guilt.
“It is worth pointing out that the apologies to the victims of Merlugov’s actions were offered at a very late stage and only after we applied to the regional police department, — lawyer with the Committee Against Torture Vladimir Smirnov commented on the situation. — In my opinion, it shows that the former superior of the victim (and it was him who apologized to the victims) Aleksandr Nazarov did not draw any positive conclusions based on the results of this high-profile case”.