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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: March 25, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Deputy Chair of Public Observation Commission Calls for Expulsion of Novaya Gazeta Journalist Yelena Masyuk
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Pavel Pyatnitsky, deputy chair of the Public Observation Commission, a group that monitors prison conditions, has called for expelling Novaya Gazeta journalist Yelena Masyuk for publishing an account of the POC's visit to the Chechen suspects in the Nemtsov murder investigation, the newspaper reported.

Masyuk published an article on the POC's interviews of Khamzat Bakhayev and Tamerlan Eskerkhanov, saying that the guard had put on handcuffs so tightly they had injured the suspects. Pyatnitsky says that Masyuk has violated the internal prison regulations for pre-trial detention with the publication.

Masyuk refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement at the time of the visit.

This is the third incident regarding efforts by civic groups to find out the conditions of the detainees.

When the POC first visited them and spoke to Zaur Dadayev and others, they learned of the suspects complaints that they were tortured into confessions, and of their withdrawal of their statements. This prompted a fight within the POC, which is now headed by Anton Tsvetkov, a conservative activist for the rights of military persons in detention, who reprimanded prison rights' activists Andrei Babushkin. This led to a late-night visit from officers of the Investigative Committee to the homes of Babushkin and a Moskovsky Komsomolets writer Eva markacheva, and a warning of prosecution for disclosing information from the investigation.

Then Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, was denied permission to visit the suspects.

Tsvetkov later disavowed the claims of the members of his own organization regarding torture of the suspects.

The struggles of the Public Observation Commission reveal the efforts of the last of the Yeltsin-era liberals who created the commission to address the Soviet legacy of abuse in the GULAG to challenge Putin-era conservatives who have basically turned the commission to another purpose, protecting members of the armed forces from prosecution. The investigation of the Nemtsov murder is said to have pitted the Federal Security Service (FSB) against Ramzan Kadyrov, in whose Interior Ministry troops the suspects served.

While evidence that the incriminating statements made by the suspects under torture might tend to exonerate Kadyrov and his men, prison authorities and the higher officials giving them instructions evidently believe that the less said about the detainees and their conditions the better.

Masyuk, a journalist for the old NTV, was kidnapped by Chechen rebels in 1997 and ultimately released two months later after public protests and a $2 million ransom. Earlier she had been threatened with prosecution for interviews with terrorist Shamil Basayev, and successfully fought a libel suit against Vladimir Zhirinovsky who claimed she was abetting terrorists.

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick