Category Archives: Torture Inquisition

Guantánamo Bay: Inside the empty, rotting torture blocks of Camp X-Ray


Camp X-Ray has now been lying untouched for more than ten years Photo: JULIAN SIMMONDS

The abandoned Camp X-ray has been left to rot after it was closed following pictures of detainees in orange jump suits imprisoned there caught the world’s attention. Sean Rayment goes to see what has become of this notorious prison.

telegraph.co.uk | Jun 10, 2012

By Sean Rayment, in Camp X-Ray

I am standing inside one of the dilapidated interrogation huts in Camp X-Ray, one of the most notorious prisons in history.

It’s hot, dark, airless and smells of rotting wood. The floor is uneven and my guide, a US soldier, warns me that there may be snakes.

I walk gingerly to the centre of the room where a wooden table is bolted to the floor. The hut is divided into two rooms, each the mirror image of the other.

There are no windows, just space for an air-conditioning unit; the ceilings and walls have been soundproofed.

It is in these rooms that men picked up on the battlefield in Afghanistan were allegedly tortured: threatened with snarling dogs and, some detainees claim, subjected to simulated drowning – a process now, notoriously, known as water boarding.

Camp X-Ray has now been lying untouched for more than ten years, since it was closed in April 2002, and is now overgrown with weeds and vines. It is now bizarrely, almost a nature reserve, home to snakes, wasps and a peculiar rodent, similar to a giant guinea pig called a hutai, known locally as banana rats.

“Why is it still here, why not pull it down?”, I ask my guide.

“Crime scene”, he responds. “Allegations of torture, apparently”.

Ten years ago, however, this sinister place was at the centre of the world’s attention.

After the United States and Britain invaded Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, suspected al-Qaeda operatives began to be captured.

At first they were held in special CIA detention camps such as the one in the Bagram Air Base, a few miles outside of Kabul.

But in early 2002 the US Department of Justice advised the Bush administration that Camp X-Ray in Cuba could be considered outside the country’s legal jurisdiction and be used to hold terrorist suspects without trial or as prisoners of war.

The innocent and the guilty arrived on transport aircraft deprived of all their senses: blindfolded, wearing ear protectors, chained at the hands and feet, and wearing the notorious orange boiler suits.

There were alternatives to Camp X-Ray. Detainees could have simply been shot dead but that tactic would have delivered no intelligence. Another alternative was prison ships which would endlessly circle the globe in international waters. But such an undertaking would have just as controversial, and a logistical nightmare.

Brigadier General James Lettko, the deputy commander of Joint Force Guantánamo, shifts uncomfortably in his seat when I ask if the use of Camp X-Ray ultimately served as a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda?

“Think about what was going on just after 9/11. We went into Afghanistan in October and then started to capture detainees at terrorist training camps around the winter of 2001/2002,” he says.

“Think about the state of emotions within the US government. There was a determination to bring those suspects to justice and I think it was necessary.

The US government had to find a place where they could take these detainees and process them, and keep them out of the fight. That meant they had to be detained in a camp some place and for what ever reason they

decided not to keep the detainees in Afghanistan and Camp X-ray was a result of that decision, that urgency to bring the detainees out of theatre.”

My guides lead me to the centre of Camp X-Ray. They ask me for my impression and I explain that it is reminiscent of a Second World War prisoner of war camp.

I do not speak the thought of “concentration camp” because I know they will be offended, and, as I remind myself, that thought is just an emotional response.

They look at me and shrug – I think they feel the same but they refuse to say. Instead they warn me about the wasps: “Everything is big in Cuba,” one jokes.

Camp X-Ray is divided into five compounds, four of which contain six cell blocks and one containing four, all enclosed by wire fences topped with barbed wire.

Each block contains 10 cells, effectively cages, roughly seven feet by seven feet with a concrete floor and a large corrugated iron roof.

The camp is completely deprived of privacy and wholly open to the elements. Several 20 foot wire fences topped with more rolls of razor wire ring the perimeter.

Time and again throughout my visit, senior officers tell me how much conditions have improved since the time when Camp X-Ray was in operation, adding that it was “only” open for 90 days and “just” 82 detainees were held there.

After an hour or so I walk, relieved, through the main gates of Camp X-Ray. On a perimeter fence is a sign: “Honor Bound To Defend Freedom.”

Ex-spy: Destroying CIA waterboarding videos purged ‘ugly visuals’


This undated handout photo provided by the CIA shows Jose Rodriguez. In a new book, the retired CIA officer who ordered the destruction of interrogation videos says he was tired of waiting for Washington’s bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives. The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al-Nashiri. In his book, “Hard Measures,” retired CIA officer Jose Rodriguez writes that, especially after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, if those videos were to leak out, CIA officers would be in danger.

Associated Press | Apr 25, 2012

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO

WASHINGTON — The retired top CIA officer who ordered the destruction of videos showing waterboarding says in a new book that he was tired of waiting for Washington’s bureaucracy to make a decision that protected American lives.

Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw the CIA’s once-secret interrogation and detention program, also lashes out at President Barack Obama’s administration for calling waterboarding torture and criticizing its use.

“I cannot tell you how disgusted my former colleagues and I felt to hear ourselves labeled ‘torturers’ by the president of the United States,” Rodriguez writes in his book, “Hard Measures.”

The book is due out April 30. The Associated Press purchased a copy Tuesday.

The chapter about the interrogation videos adds few new details to a narrative that has been explored for years by journalists, investigators and civil rights groups. But the book represents Rodriguez’s first public comment on the matter since the tape destruction was revealed in 2007.

That revelation touched off a political debate and ignited a Justice Department investigation that ultimately produced no charges. Critics accused Rodriguez of covering up torture and preventing the public from ever seeing the brutality of the CIA’s interrogations. Supporters hailed him as a hero who acted in the best interest of the country in the face of years of bureaucratic hand-wringing.

The tapes, filmed in a secret CIA prison in Thailand, showed the waterboarding of terrorists Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri.

Especially after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, Rodriguez writes, if the CIA’s videos were to leak out, officers worldwide would be in danger.

“I wasn’t going to sit around another three years waiting for people to get up the courage,” to do what CIA lawyers said he had the authority to do himself, Rodriguez writes. He describes sending the order in November 2005 as “just getting rid of some ugly visuals.”

Rodriguez writes critically of Obama’s counterterrorism policies today. With no way to capture and interrogate terrorists, Rodriguez says, the CIA relies far too much on drones. Unmanned aerial attacks alienate America’s foreign partners and make it impossible to question people in the know, he says.

These points could foreshadow Republican attack lines in the presidential race because other former senior CIA officers are advising presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

The killing of Osama bin Laden is Obama’s signature national security accomplishment, but Rodriguez writes that valuable intelligence from the CIA’s “black sites” helped lead the U.S. to bin Laden.

The book is published by Threshold, a conservative imprint of Simon and Schuster that also published former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir.

Boy was put into coma after being strapped down and shocked 31 times for 7 hours by laughing teachers….because he would not take off his coat


Pain: The disabled boy is shown in the centre of the picture writhing and screaming as the staff pump electricity through him

‘Tortured, terrorised and abused’: Shocking new video shows disabled boy strapped down and shocked 31 TIMES at school by his own laughing teachers for SEVEN hours

Staff at the Judge Rotenberg Center pumped electricity through Andre McCollins’ body 31 times because he would not take his coat off

He was left in a coma for three days caused by shock, a court heard

dailymail.co.uk | Apr 12, 2012

By Martin Robinson

This shocking new video shows how a disabled teenage boy was tied up and given 31 electric shocks over seven hours by his laughing teachers.

Writhing in agony and screaming to be saved student Andre McCollins was strapped face down and ‘tortured’ because he would not remove his coat at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts.

McCollins, who has learning difficulties, is currently suing Rotenberg and three staff for his treatment ten years ago, which left him in a three-day coma caused by fear.

A courtroom just outside Boston was shown the horrific scenes as the case against the school is considered.

Testifying yesterday his tearful mother Cheryl, who sent him to the private school for disabled children said: ‘I never signed up for him to be tortured, terrorised, and abused. I had no idea—no idea—that they tortured the children in the school.

‘I couldn’t turn Andre’s head to the left or to the right. He was just staring straight. I took my hands and went like this (waves hand in front of her face), he didn’t blink.’

Doctors have also said that the school could have killed the boy.

‘He was essentially in what we would call a catatonic condition. That means a condition that happens with people that are acutely psychotically disturbed and they let him stay in the facility basically sitting still, not eating, refusing fluids for the most part, for the next few days. They’re lucky he didn’t die,’  expert witness Dr Marc Whaley said.

‘This violated — in a gross fashion — accepted standards of care,’ he added.

The school has been widely criticised for using electro-shock therapy to treat its disabled pupils.

Two years ago the UN said the technique used there amounted to ‘torture’, and urged Obama’s government to stop to it.

In October 2002, Andre McCollins, then 18, was confronted by staff who wanted him to take off his coat.

The new video shows him being shocked in a chair and collapsing to the ground before being jumped on by several staff.

He was then tied down and shocked continuously for hours and McCollins says that some were laughing as he writhed in pain.

Later that day his mother rescued him and took him to a nearby children’s hospital where they said he was suffering from ‘acute stress’.

Established in 1971 to help ‘fix’ children who are disruptive and intent on self-harm, the school is known for their use of harmful tactics they believe induces positive changes in behaviour.

According to literature provided by the school, children do not feel the electric shocks are anything for students or parents to be concerned about.

‘This treatment, which feels like a hard pinch, has been extensively validated in the scientific literature…is extremely effective, and has no significant adverse side effects,’ the paperwork says.

Hotline Renews Hope For Victims Of Police Torture


“Finally, society realized that there really is a problem with this,” says rights lawyer Ilnur Sharapov, shown here answering the torture hotline in the offices of Agora in central Moscow.

rferl.org | Apr 12, 2012

By Tom Balmforth

MOSCOW — Yelena Isaulova says she’s lucky to be alive.

Two police officers in the southern Russian town of Pyatigorsk took the then-46-year-old mother of two into custody, where she says they repeatedly beat her head, arms, and legs while she was handcuffed.

Isaulova adds that her “glassy-eyed” captors would have tortured her to death if a third police officer had not intervened.

“My skin was scraped off, my hands were all bruised and beaten, and so were my wrists because they hung me up by my handcuffs,” she says. “Then they drove me to the nearby river and said, ‘We’ll smash your head in, plant drugs on you, and throw you in the river and you’ll float away and no one will ever come looking for you.'”

Six years have passed since that day, but there has been no investigation. Isaulova says her appeals have simply been ignored.

Nationwide Anger

Isaulova’s horrific story might never have come to light were it not for a new nationwide hotline based in Moscow that logs cases of alleged police torture and provides legal support for victims.

Isaulova is among scores of Russian citizens who, in the space of three weeks, have appealed to the Agora human rights organization, recounting tales of police abuse — some of them nearly a decade old. Many who are now calling the hotline say they had previously feared filing official complaints or were ignored when they did.

But that feeling of helplessness appears to be changing in the wake of the nationwide anger that erupted over the brutal murder in police custody of 52-year-old Sergei Nazarov in Kazan last month.

Since then, dozens of victims who have kept their grief, anger, and shame quiet for years have been inspired to go public and seek support from organizations like Agora.

Ilnur Sharapov of Agora says police torture has always been prevalent but that the public’s passivity finally reached the breaking point when Nazarov was tortured to death after allegedly being sodomized with a bottle.

“This case was simply so cruel and awful,” Sharapov says. “There was a boil that had long been growing and growing and finally it burst. Finally, society realized that there really is a problem with this.”

Calls Pouring In

Sharapov, an ethnic Tatar lawyer who mans the phone in Agora’s small three-person office in Moscow’s upscale Chistie Prudy district, says he has personally logged 88 concrete cases of police torture. He says he has taken calls day and night from 31 Russian regions — stretching from Sakhalin on the Pacific coast to Krasnodar on the Black Sea to Murmansk in the Arctic Circle.

In a sign of the success of the hotline, Sharapov says four regional law enforcement bodies — in Sverdlovsk, Kurgansk, Moscow, and Krasnodar — requested that relevant information be sent to them.

A Moscow police spokesperson said investigators were “studying the statements” of those who have called the Agora hotline.

Additionally, on April 4, Agora handed 107 cases of alleged police torture to Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin.

If Sharapov establishes that a claim is valid, he requests that victims send him documents and other evidence. If he has time, he gives brief legal consultation himself and then forwards the documents to Agora’s regional lawyers, who take the case from there.

Trends Of Abuse

If Agora has no local lawyers in a particular region, they dispatch a legal team on a temporary basis.

This was the case in Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals region, where Agora logged 13 accusations of police abuse, according to Dmitry Kolbasin, another Agora employee. The organization is sending a team of four lawyers to the regional capital, Yekaterinburg, to consult with alleged victims on a walk-in basis.

Sharapov says trends are already emerging that illustrate why police abuse is so prevalent.

Russian police officers are required to meet monthly quotas of arrests and detentions, a practice that critics say results in officers forcibly extracting confessions based on trumped-up charges.

“The majority of the people who have come forward said that they were tortured so that they confessed to crimes they did not commit,” Sharapov says.

Local media and social networks are rife with such cases.

Read More

Former Chicago Mayor Daley To Answer Questions During Police Torture Conspiracy Cover-up Trial

huffingtonpost.com | Apr 10, 2012

CHICAGO — Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has agreed to answer questions under oath about allegations that he was part of a conspiracy to cover up police torture decades ago, attorneys said Tuesday.

Daley and City Hall had fought for years to keep him from being brought before lawyers suing the city on behalf of men who say they were tortured by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge or detectives under his command in the 1970s and the 1980s.

Daley was Cook County state’s attorney for much of the 1980s and became mayor in 1989.

At a federal hearing Tuesday, the city relented and agreed to make Daley available for questioning by the lawyers, said Flint Taylor, who represents a former inmate suing the city over the allegations. No date has been set.

Representatives for Daley did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment. Paul Michalik, a lawyer representing the city, confirmed Daley would appear at his deposition.

Taylor said he’s concerned that City Hall will try to set limits on the scope of the questioning when they meet with the plaintiff’s lawyers Thursday.

“We’ve been frustrated over the last seven months,” Taylor said of the city’s resistance. “We’re troubled they want to limit the scope of the deposition. They say the devil is in the details. Certainly, we don’t believe there is any reason to limit the scope.”

Daley is named in a civil suit filed by Taylor’s client, Michael Tillman, who claims Chicago police waterboarded him with soda decades ago to make him confess to a crime he didn’t commit. Tillman served nearly 24 years in prison before his rape and murder conviction was vacated and the charges were dismissed in 2010.

In documents filed in federal court last month, Daley denied knowing anything about an alleged conspiracy to cover up police torture by Burge and his men when he was serving as state’s attorney and mayor.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Daley could be sued by those claiming a cover-up conspiracy, saying while he had prosecutorial immunity from lawsuits as state’s attorney, he was offered no such protection as mayor.

Burge was convicted in 2010 of lying about the torture of suspects and is serving four and a half years in prison.

“Guidebook to False Confessions”: Key Document John Yoo Used to Draft Torture Memo Released

Truthout | Apr 3, 2012

By Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye

Abu Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee captured after 9/11, was tortured at CIA black site prisons beginning in May 2002. Seven of the ten techniques he was subjected came from a manual just released by the Defense Department under the Freedom of Information Act. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

In May of 2002, one of several meetings was convened at the White House where the CIA sought permission from top Bush administration officials, including then National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, to torture the agency’s first high-value detainee captured after 9/11: Abu Zubaydah.

The CIA claimed Zubaydah, who at the time was being held at a black site prison in Thailand, was “withholding imminent threat information during the initial interrogation sessions,” according to documents released by the Senate Intelligence Committee in April 2009.

So, “attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel [including the agency’s top lawyer John Rizzo] met with the Attorney General [John Ashcroft], the National Security Adviser [Rice], the Deputy National Security Adviser [Stephen Hadley], the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council [John Bellinger], and the Counsel to the President [Alberto Gonzales] in mid-May 2002 to discuss the possible use of alternative interrogation methods that differed from the traditional methods used by the U.S.”

One of the key documents handed out to Bush officials at this meeting, and at Principals Committee sessions chaired by Rice that took place between May and July 2002, was a 37-page instructional manual that contained detailed descriptions of seven of the ten techniques that ended up in the legal opinion widely referred to as the “torture memo,” drafted by Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) attorney John Yoo and signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, three months later. According to Rice, Yoo had attended the Principals Committee meetings and participated in discussions about Zubaydah’s torture.

That instructional manual, referred to as “Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) Operating Instructions,” has just been released by the Department of Defense under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The document sheds additional light on the origins of the Bush administration’s torture policy and for the first time describes exactly what methods of torture Bush officials had discussed – and subsequently approved – for Zubaydah in May 2002.

The PREAL manual was prepared by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) courses to teach US military personnel how to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime. The manual states one of the primary goals of the training is “to give students the most reliable mental picture possible of an actual peacetime governmental detention experiences [sic].”

A US counterterrorism official and an aide to one of the Bush officials who participated in Principals Committee meetings in May 2002, however, confirmed to Truthout last week that the PREAL manual was one of several documents the CIA obtained from JPRA that was shared with Rice and other Principals Committee members in May 2002, the same month the CIA officially took over Zubaydah’s interrogation from the FBI. As National Security Adviser to President George W. Bush, Rice chaired the meetings.

Rice and Bellinger have denied ever seeing a list of SERE training techniques. But in 2008, they told the Senate Armed Services Committee, which conducted an investigation into treatment of detainees in custody of the US government, that they recalled being present at White House meetings where SERE training was discussed.

Sarah Farber, a spokeswoman at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, where Rice teaches political economy, said she would pass on Truthout’s queries about claims that Rice reviewed and discussed the PREAL manual to Rice’s office. But Rice’s office did not respond to our inquiries.

Full story

Grisly death fuels tales of Russian police torture


Human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov attends a news conference in Moscow, March 27, 2012. The news conference was dedicated to recent acts of police brutality in the Republic of Tatarstan, including an incident in Kazan in which a suspect under examination presumably died after officers sodomized him with a bottle of champagne earlier in March, according to local media. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Reuters |Apr 5, 2012

By Jennifer Rankin

KAZAN, Russia | Albert Zagitov had barely set up his new fruit and vegetable stall at the bustling Volga market in the Russian city of Kazan when he was told by a stranger to pack up and go.

After he refused, he was taken to a police car and driven to a police station where he says four officers took turns to hit him in the head and chest and threatened to rape him.

“As soon as we sat in the car, they started behaving very cruelly, swearing at me and calling me names,” said Zagitov, a Russian born in the Tatarstan region of which Kazan is the capital.

“The threats were real. I was full of fear and in shock that this was happening,” he told Reuters, his words pouring out quickly as he recalled the events of last July.

He was freed six hours later with an aching head, battered ribs and a charge of petty hooliganism.

But looking back at the encounter, Zagitov, a 33-year-old father of one, can count himself lucky to have survived.

Last month Sergei Nazarov, an unemployed man of 52, was detained at the same police station on the same charge. The day after his arrest on March 9, Nazarov was taken to hospital with abdominal pains. He died less than 24 hours later.

Before slipping into a coma, he told relatives he had been beaten by four police officers and sodomized with a champagne bottle.

His death has caused outrage across Russia and sparked protests in Kazan, a more than 1,000-year-old city on the Volga River 750 km (470 miles) east of Moscow which prides itself on tolerance of its diverse ethnic population and many religions.

Police have charged five officers over the case, and investigators are re-opening previously “closed” cases where complaints were made, including Zagitov’s.

PROBLEM FOR PUTIN

Nazarov’s death has put the spotlight on police lawlessness and brutality as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin prepares to start a six-year term as president in May, increasing demands for him to carry out reforms to strengthen the rule of law that have been demanded during four months of anti-Putin protests.

Angered by Nazarov’s case, about 100 people chanted “shame on the police” at a protest on a recent Saturday in Kazan’s Freedom Square, where well-maintained buildings including the regional government’s headquarters look down on a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin.

“Once we learned about what had happened in the Kazan police station, we understood that it concerned all of us – in Moscow, in Krasnodar, in Chita and Sakhalin,” Lev Ponomaryov, a human-rights campaigner, told the protesters.

“Because if no one is punished, these crimes will happen in other places. Indeed they are happening.”

Pop music blared from a dark blue van parked nearby bearing the logo of Putin’s United Russia party, and about 20 members of a pro-Putin youth movement gathered on another part of the square, hoping to distract attention from the protest.

Relatives say Nazarov had committed no crime and did not know what the petty hooliganism charge was for although the police, who have denied mistreating him, said he had been accused of stealing a mobile phone.

The relatives have dismissed suggestions by the police that he was drunk and disorderly. Contacted by phone, Nazarov’s brother declined to be interviewed.

TEST CASE

Kazan’s image for tolerance has been badly damaged. The city of more than 1 million, which was conquered by Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, has long portrayed itself as an example of harmony between Muslims, Christians, Russians and Tatars.

The turquoise-tipped minarets of a new mosque and the 16th-century onion-domed cathedral inside Kazan’s white-walled Kremlin are meant to embody this mingling of cultures.

In the historic city centre, modish coffee bars and a gleaming shopping centre stand alongside mosques and churches, while the outskirts are dominated by Soviet-era high rise buildings and heavy traffic.

Kazan’s leaders like to trumpet its independence from Moscow although Putin won 83 percent of votes in the March 4 presidential election.

Yet the city felt the strong hand of Moscow when federal Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev fired the head of the city’s Dalny police station where Nazarov and Zagitov were taken into custody and accused officers there of betraying the force.

In addition to the five officers charged over Nazarov’s case, a federal investigative committee is examining 28 other complaints against the Kazan police. The allegations include reports of torture such as sexual abuse, beatings, electric shock treatment and forced confessions for invented offences.

Russia’s Public Chamber, an official body that analyses draft laws, is examining a book by the regional interior minister, Asgat Safarov, in which he is reported to advocate using the “most painful methods” to combat organized crime.

Nazarov’s death is seen by human rights activists as a test case of how far the Kremlin and government are prepared to go to carry out promises to wipe out abuses of power by the police.

“The issue of police torture has been huge in this country for many years now,” Tatiana Lokshina, deputy director of the Moscow office of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said.

Only the glare of publicity sets this case apart from many more across the country, rights activists say.

“This case has attracted so much attention because the level of brutality, the level of atrocity, is staggering,” Lokshina said.

“The problem has been there for a very long time. We want to make sure the official rhetoric, triggered by the nightmarish case in Kazan, results in concrete steps towards improving the current situation.”

TALES OF TORTURE AND ABUSE

Svetlana Kolyakanova recounted how her brother was “cruelly beaten” and tortured with electric shocks to his genitals, the palms of his hands and soles of his feet, after being arrested in April last year by Kazan police.

“After we talked to him he cried and told us he could not take any more. The whole day they had tortured him with electric shocks. He signed all the confessions they wanted him to sign.”

Irina Muratova, a lawyer representing local victims, said the police used such methods to achieve a 100 percent crime detection rate.

A Kazan policeman also told a Russian newspaper that the police used special methods to extract confessions.

“If we know that a person is guilty but we don’t have proof for the court – a gun, a body or other evidence – then harsher interrogation methods are allowed,” the officer, identified only as Yuri, told Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper in an interview.

The alleged ringleader of the abuse with bottles was a veteran of Russia’s war against separatists in the Chechnya region of southern Russia which had left him with psychological problems, said Pavel Chikov of human rights group Agora.

Other cases of sexual abuse against officers at the Dalny police station were long ignored, rights activists say.

Oskar Krylov, a 22-year old administrator, says he was sodomised with a champagne bottle and a pencil by Kazan police last October but his case was going nowhere before Nazarov died.

“I complained to the courts, but until Nazarov no one paid any attention,” he told Reuters.

Tatarstan’s investigative committee has long ignored people’s rights, Igor Vselov, a rights activist, said during the Kazan protest, where people gathered around a three-foot (metre) high box of complaints to underscore this point.

“The investigative committee of Tatarstan represents the interests of the government and big business,” he said.

The criticism is not only from the streets. Russia’s deputy prosecutor general, Sergei Zaitsev, accused Tatarstan’s investigators of “serious shortcomings” at a meeting with the region’s president and other senior officials on Monday.

His investigations had revealed 66 “hidden” crimes by police, mostly theft, he told the meeting. He said he had received 417 complaints from citizens, 65 involving violence.

Contacted for comment, a spokesman for Russia’s Interior Ministry said that an investigation was under way which would show “what (happened), and who (was involved) and how”.

He added that the Kazan courts were dealing with suspects, but declined to comment at greater length beyond Nurgaliyev’s public statements. The chief spokesperson for Tatarstan’s ministry of internal affairs could not immediately be reached, and a subordinate declined to comment.

MEDVEDEV’S REFORM ATTEMPTS

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s outgoing president, introduced a police law in 2010 that sought to tighten standards and weed out violent and corrupt officers.

But critics say the law did little more than change the name of the force from the Soviet-era “militsiya” to “politsiya” – militia to police.

“More than two years of reforms have not led to any qualitative changes,” said Natalia Taubina, director of the Public Verdict Foundation, an organization that offers legal help to victims of human rights abuses by the police.

There have been a few notable cases of action being taken against the police. The police chief of St Petersburg, Russia’s second city, was fired this year after a 15-year-old detainee, Mikhail Leontyev, died in police custody.

But official figures show only 4,000 criminal cases were opened against police in 2010 although 125,000 complaints of violations were registered by Russia’s Interior Ministry.

RALLYING POINT FOR OPPOSITION?

Opposition leaders say demands for police reform are important for many Russians, and particularly those who took part in anti-Putin protests in Moscow that attracted tens of thousands of people between December and March.

Although Nazarov’s death has prompted protests in Kazan, Rashit Akhmetov, one of the protest organizers, said that official pressure had frightened people away. Students, he said, had been told by their university not to protest.

“But people sitting in their apartments, they don’t sympathize with the authorities. They sympathize with the people on the streets,” he said.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, has dismissed suggestions there will now be a police shake-up. Talk of new police reform was “absurd”, he told current affairs magazine Itogi.

“It is not worth the government rushing to begin a new reform without completing the last one,” he said.

But Putin should be careful, opposition groups say, because combating police brutality is one of the issues that could rally the disparate groups involved in the widespread protests sparked by alleged fraud in December’s parliamentary election.

“The potential of civil society has grown dramatically in the last few months,” Taubina said.

“Police reform – qualitative reforms, not cosmetic reforms – is one point on the agenda that could unite many of these movements that have formed in the past few months.”