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There is torture at penal colony number 7 Prisoners and their relatives talk about the situation in the Segezha prison

Source: Meduza
Photo: Sakharov Center / YouTube

On November 28, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary System Valery Maksimenko called Ildar Dadin a "talented imitator". According to the deputy, an inspection found no evidence that the civil activist had been tortured in prison. The relatives of prisoners being held at the colony gathered at Moscow’s Sakharov Сenter and those who had previously been confined to the prison called in on Skype. They came together to tell journalists that there is torture in the Karelian prison.

Immediately after Ildar Dadin revealed that he was being tortured in Segezha in early November, similar testimony began to appear about what is happening in the colony. Some people spoke on condition of anonymity, while others did not hide their identities. But there had never before being a public event at which former prisoners and relatives who knew of the torture going on at penal colony number 7 spoke together.

The November 28 conference at Moscow's Sakharov Center was their first opportunity to do so. The conference was dedicated not to Ildar Dadin, but to the overall situation in the colony. "Today, we refute what [deputy head of the federal penitentiary system Valery Maksimenko] said. Other inmates are also being tortured," said Lev Ponomarev, the director of the All-Russian Movement for Human Rights, who was moderating the press conference. According to him, it is necessary to find a "political solution" and close the "torture chamber in the Karelian prison."

The main heroes of the press conference were the relatives of the prisoners at the Segezha colony; amongst them were the mother and brother of Hazbulat Gabzaev. Gabzaev was confined to the prison in May 2016, after which he was placed in a punishment cell. Hazbulat told relatives that he was beaten in prison, had his legs stretched, the soles of his feet beaten, and his head thrust into a toilet and flushed. Gabzaev once more found himself in the cell when he – a Muslim – refused to eat pork. Though the official reason was the he was swearing. Gabzaev remains in the cooler even today. His mother appealed to colony head Sergei Kossiev with a request that her son be sent to the hospital (as he had lost the ability to hear in his right ear right). Kossiev said that a request had been sent to the hospital and that they were waiting for a response.

The mother of another prisoner, Zelimkhan Geliskhanov, said that her son was confined to the colony in 2012, and has spent much time sitting in the cooler chamber over the years. There, Geliskhanov endured brutal torture, which led to the rupture of his ligaments and epileptic seizures. According to the prisoner's mother, he tried to commit suicide twice. "He was told twice that he was going to be raped. Beatings in prison are not as dangerous as the moral humiliation,” said Geliskhanov’s mother.

Former prisoners called in on Skype. Each of the four said that a stay in the cooler chamber was mandatory for newly arrived prisoners. Twice a day, prisoners would be taken out of the cooler chamber and rushed into the corridor (where there are no cameras) and beaten. Prison employees would also take the prisoner's legs, lifted them into the air, and stretch them in different directions; behind someone would stand supporting the prisoner back so as to ensure that he remained standing and another employee would push his body down. The prisoners would then be thrown on the floor and kicked in the legs and kidneys. According to the former prisoners, nurses were present at each beating, pronouncing the words “be patient” and “stop pretending.”

Former prisoners have noted that almost all colony employees were involved in the torture and beatings and that colony head Sergey Kossiev was also often present. The mother of Zelimkhan Geliskhanov suggested that Kossieva had been "hidden" during the inspection that result immediately after Dadin’s letter was written because Kossiev is "mentally unbalanced", she said. "It can be easy to provoke him to reveal his true sadistic nature," Geliskhanov’s mother said. She has met Kossiev personally.

Anastasia Zotova, Dadin’s wife, said that she spoke with former Segezha prisoners from Petrozavodsk. The prisoners, she said, refused to testify out of fear that drugs would be planted amongst their possessions and that they would once again find themselves at the colony.

The prisoners also talked about "activists" – inmates who help the administration. The opportunity to be an “activist” is given only to ethnically-Russian inmates and, according to Lev Ponomarev, most of these helpers are those who were confined to the colony for rape.

Lev Ponomarev added that civil activists are gathering materials to submit to Russia’s investigative committee and prosecutor's office with a request that criminal proceedings be initiated against the colony and that a federal comprehensive investigation be launched into the question of torture within its confines. Russia’s Human Rights Council is also investigating the claims.

“There was legal use of [force] … there was also the illegal use of violence against citizens. I am absolutely convinced of this,” said Igor Kalyapin, head of Russia’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture on November 28, adding that in the situation was beyond talking about whether the prisoners have good “simulation abilities.”

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