stories

“10—12 people would beat me all at once, kicking me” In a letter to his wife, Russian political prisoner says he's being tortured

Meduza
12:03, 1 november 2016

The following letter was written by Ildar Dadin to his wife Anastasia (Nastya) Zotova. Dadin was the first ever person to be convicted under Article 212.1 of Russia’s Criminal Code. The article punishes anyone who "repeatedly violates the established order by organizing or holding meetings [or] rallies". Dadin was imprisoned for organizing one-man protests. In the letter, Ildar Dadin reveals the torture that he is enduring at penal colony number 7 in the town of Segezha in Northwestern Russia. This torture is being administered by prison authorities.

This letter was written down by Dadin’s lawyer Alexei Liptser on October 31, 2016.

Nastya! If you decide to publish this information about what is happening to me, then try to distribute it as widely as possible. This will increase my chances of staying alive. Know that there is an entire mafia operating at penal colony 7. It involves the entire administration, among them the colony’s head Major Sergey Leonidovich Kossiev and the vast majority of its employees, including the doctors.

Upon my arrival at the colony on September 10, 2016, I had practically all of my things taken away from me. Two razor blades were then planted [amongst my remaining possessions] and subsequently “discovered” during an inspection. This is a common practice here—this gives them grounds to throw all newcomers into solitary confinement, to ensure they immediately understand the hell that they found themselves in. I was put into solitary without any official orders. All of my things were taken away, including soap, my toothbrush, toothpaste, and even toilet paper. In protest of these illegal activities, I went on a hunger strike.

On September 11, 2016, the colony head Kossiev came to me with three employees. Together, they started beating me. Over the course of that day, I was beaten a total four times, by 10-12 people at once. They would kick me. After the third beating, they lowered my head into a toilet right there in the holding cell.

On September 12, 2016, [several] employees cuffed my hands behind my back and hanged me up by the handcuffs. Being suspended in this manner brought about terrible pain in the wrists, twisted out my elbows, and caused horrible back pain. I was suspended like that for half an hour. Then they took off my underwear and said they would bring another prisoner to rape me unless I stopped my hunger strike. After that, I was brought to Kossiev’s office, where he said to me in the presence of other staff: "You have been beaten very little. If I give the order, you will be beaten much worse. If you try to complain, they will kill you and bury you under the fence." After that, they beat me regularly, several times a day. Regular beatings, bullying, humiliation, insults, intolerable detention conditions – this is happening with the other prisoners, as well.

All subsequent punishments were based on blatant lies. All of the videos in which I was being “penalized” were staged: before filming, they would tell me how to behave and what to do—not to argue, not to protest, to look at the floor, [etc.]. Otherwise, they said, they would kill [me] and no one would know about it, because no one knows where I am. I cannot send letters without going through the administration first, and the administration has promised to kill me if I write any complaints. Nastya, in my first letter from penal colony 7, I wrote to you about the European Court of Human Rights in order to circumvent censorship and give the slightest hint that I was not all right and that I needed help (Note from Anastasia Zotova: I did not receive any of Ildar’s letters from prison.)

I ask you to publish this letter, because there is a real “information blockade” in this place and I see no other opportunities to break through it. I am not asking you to get me out of here or to have me transferred to another facility. I have repeatedly seen and heard how other prisoners are being beaten, so my conscience will not allow me to run away from here. I am going to fight to help others. I am not afraid of death. Most of all, I am afraid not being able to withstand the torture and surrendering.

If the Anti-torture Committee [a Russian human rights NGO] has not yet been destroyed in Russia, I ask for their assistance in ensuring my right to life and security and those of other prisoners in Russia. I ask to you to openly reveal that Major Kossiev has directly threatened to murder me for any attempt to complain about what is happening. I will be glad if you find an attorney who will be able to reside in Segezha and provide legal support.

Time is against me. Surveillance footage would be able to prove [that such] torture and beatings [are happening], but it is becoming less and less likely that such footage remains intact. If I am again subjected to torture, beatings, and rape, it is unlikely that I will last more than a week. In case of my sudden death, you may be told that I committed suicide, had an accident, was shot while trying to escape, or [died] fighting with another prisoner, but this would be a lie. [My murder] would have been planned in advance to eliminate witnesses and victims of torture.

I love you and I hope to see you someday. Your Ildar.