stories

A woman in Magnitogorsk says she was raped by the cops. Her husband cut off two fingers to draw attention to her case. Now she’s been convicted of filing a false police report.

Meduza
19:47, 16 april 2018

The Public Verdict Foundation

In 2016, a woman living in Magnitogorsk reported that she was beaten and raped by the police

On the evening of January 26, 2016, police officers in Magnitogorsk brought Salima Muhamedyanova and her husband Igor Gubanov in for questioning. Gubanov says one of their neighbors had called the police on them. He told Meduza that this neighbor had done this several times before. “She’s registered with a psychiatric ward, and she was trying to kick us out of the apartment. That same day, I went for a smoke. She tells me, ‘I’m going to call the police. You’re annoying me, walking around everywhere. I told her to go right ahead,” Gubanov says.

At the police station, Salima and Igor were booked for a minor misdemeanor and released. “We came home, and I took off my coat and shoes,” Gubanov says. “But my wife only managed to get her boots off before the same officers burst into our home.” He says they grabbed his phone and “dragged” his wife outside. The police brought the couple back to the station, locking them up in separate cells without filing any formal charges.

According to Muhamedyanova, this is what happened next: “I knocked, but nobody opened. When I fell asleep, the duty officer’s assistant came in. He was smiling and asked, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘I want to drink some water and I want to go home.’ He said, ‘Let’s go.’ This was my first time there. I drank some water, and when I came out he wasn’t there anymore. Then I got lost [in the station] — there was a long corridor and lots of doors on both sides. I was looking for an exit.” Eventually, she met one of the people working there, who shoved her into the same room where she and her husband had been booked earlier that day.

“He hit me in the back of my head, and in my stomach. I fell, and he kicked me several times,” Muhamedyanova says. “When I got up, he said, ‘I’ll cut out your kidneys and dump you somewhere outside the city,’ before adding, ‘I’m so sick of you!’ Then he strangled me with one hand, saying, ‘I’ll plant some drugs on you and put you and your hubby behind bars.’ Afterwards, I barely got up, and I saw that he was leaving [the room]. I wanted to leave, too, but he locked the door behind him. There was a couch, so I sat down… Remembering makes me shiver… I thought, ‘I’m probably going to die now.’ That they’d really cut out my kidneys, and throw away my body… Especially because there was a lot of snow. They’d only find me in the spring, but nobody would ever guess it was the cops [who killed me]. Another policeman enters, smiling. I was really hoping he’d let me go, and I got up from the couch. ‘Let me go home,’ I said. And he answered, 'What do you want?’ and started to unbuckle his belt.”

Muhamedyanova says the officer then started raping her. During the assault, he apparently hit her in the head so hard that he knocked her out. The next morning, the couple was released. “They let me out, and I saw that my wife was still in her cell,” Gubanov said. “The policeman put me next to the entrance to the duty officer’s room. I stood there for about 30 minutes. After that, he let us go and said, ‘You’ve got 10 minutes to get lost from the city.’ We’d walked maybe a hundred meters [330 feet] when she told me that she’d been beaten and raped.” The entire next day, Muhamedyanova says she was “very scared and crying.” “I told the policeman who raped me that I’d write a report. He said, ‘No, no, that’s not happening,’ with an easy air about him,” she says.

Muhamedyanova is still afraid to name the officers she says beat and raped her. To this day, they’re in uniform, and she says she worries they might follow through on their threat to plant drugs on her, or her daughter, who also lives in Magnitogorsk. Muhamedyanova says the officers have repeated their threats, every time she’s encountered them since January 2016.

Muhamedyanova’s husband cut off two of his own fingers to protest investigators’ inaction, and she was convicted of making false charges

Muhamedyanova and her husband decided to document her injuries, but several of the city’s hospitals refused to perform an examination, insisting that they first needed documents from the police, or claiming that the competent doctors weren’t on duty. In the end, to get a doctor’s exam, the couple had to travel 25 miles to Askarovo, where Gubanov’s relatives live.

On February 1, 2016, Muhamedyanova filed a report with the Chelyabinsk region’s Investigative Committee, which soon opened a case against the officers for abusing their authority. Lawyers from the “Public Verdict” human rights foundation later joined the case. On April 6, Muhamedyanova passed a polygraph test, and she was formally recognized as the victim of a crime.

The very next day, however, Chelyabinsk regional investigators opened a case against Muhamedyanova for filing a supposedly false report. The investigation was assigned to detective Azamat Nurmanov — the same man in charge of building the case against the officers who beat and raped Muhamedyanova. Mysteriously, this latter investigation stalled. Muhamedyanova wasn’t allowed to see the case materials and her attorneys weren’t permitted to view the Magnitogorsk police station’s security camera footage from January 26.

In August 2016, desperate to draw the public’s attention to his wife’s case, Gubanov threatened to remove one of his own fingers for every week that investigators refused to release the surveillance footage. He cut off two fingers with a hacksaw before calling off the protest. Around the same time, Muhamedyanova says she was diagnosed with stage-three lymph-node cancer. She’s since had more than 20 chemo and radiation treatments, in addition to one operation.

In November 2016, investigators finally let Muhamedyanova and Gubanov view the surveillance footage. According to Public Verdict attorney Dina Latypova, however, key moments had been cut from the tape. “Of course, the [original] footage was deleted a long time ago,” Latypova told Meduza. She says the case against the Magnitogorsk officers was suspended twice. The first time, local prosecutors managed to restart the investigation. The second time, Public Verdict won a lawsuit restarting the case, but the same prosecutor’s office appealed and in February 2018 a Chelyabinsk district court agreed to overturn the ruling — re-suspending the investigation.

In August 2017, meanwhile, detectives finished investigating the charges against Muhamedyanova and sent the case to trial. On April 10, 2018, a Magnitogorsk district court convicted her of filing a false police report and fined her 20,000 rubles ($325). (Prosecutors wanted her fined 150,000 rubles — almost $2,450.) “Such a ridiculously small sum says that the investigation was covering for the rapist police officers. And the judges were covering for the investigators. It’s like they said: since this happened, we’ll give you the minimum fine, so there are no hard feelings,” Latypova guesses.

Public Verdict says it will file a lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming torture at the hands of the police and unfair treatment by Russia’s legal system.

Speaking to Meduza, Salima Muhamedyanova said her cancer treatments were successful, but she fears a recurrence and still feels unwell. She says she’s also plagued by nightmares where she is trying to escape the man who raped her. Because of her continued poor health, she struggles even to speak over the phone.

Story by Evgeny Berg, translation by Max Salnikov