Police persecute Yakov Strogan for his attempt to bring police officers to answer for subjecting him to torture

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group considers that Yakov Strogan’s arrest and remand in custody is revenge for his attempts to have the police officers who tortured him brought to answer.

The circumstances of the case suggest that the police only began actively seeking to bring charges against Yakov Strogan after he made information about his torture public. Neither his behaviour over the space of several months nor the circumstances of the case gave grounds for remanding him in custody.  Following his arrest, he was handed over to the same police officers whom he alleges abducted him, applied torture, held him captive in an unknown location and tried to extort money.

As a result he was, following his arrest, once again brutally beaten. The police officers were so sure of their impunity that they brought him to court with visible signs of beating. The ambulance doctors who were called diagnosed a skull and brain injury. Sensitivity in several parts of his body gives grounds for assuming serious damage to internal organs.

Despite the court’s ruling that he be placed in a SIZO [remand unit], he was only taken there on 11 December 2010. This arouses serious suspicion that, after the court hearing when he alleged that he had been repeatedly beaten and pointed out the persons involved, Yakov Strogan was again subjected to ill-treatment during the night from 10 to 11 December 2010.

At the present time he is in a SIZO and his state of health gives cause for grave concern.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group believes that the actions of the law enforcement bodies in this case are aimed at intimidation so that the public understands that any complaints against police officers could lead to new torture.

We are asking that the necessary measures be taken without delay to ensure:

that a medical examination is carried out on Strogan in order to establish his state of health and the injuries he has incurred;

that a thorough criminal investigation is undertaken with respect to the circumstances of his period under the control of the police from 9 to 11 December 2010 and how he received bodily injuries;

that Strogan is placed in a medical establishment able to provide him with the necessary medical assistance.

Brief account of the case

During the evening of 15 August 2010, an argument and fight broke out between Yakov Strogan and his neighbour, Mr. M.

Around 1 a.m. on 16 August, police officers from the Kievsky District Police Station in Kharkiv arrived, but Strogan did not let them in.  They tried all night to get into the flat, trying to break down the door, damaging the electrical wiring so that Strogan’s flat was without electricity.

At 6 a.m. when Strogan opened the door to the police officers, they grabbed him and took him to one of the Kievsky District Police Station sections. From there he was taken to the forest, brutally beaten and subjected to sophisticated form of torture, including the use of electric shocks and a chemical substance (they poured liquid ammonia down his nose and mouth). He was then, over a period of 4 days, held in a secret flat during which time they demanded 10 thousand dollars from his wife. When his wife failed to gather the required sum of money, Strogan was released on condition that he find the amount himself.

After being released, Strogan made a statement to the Kievsky District Prosecutor’s Office asking that a criminal investigation be initiated against the police officers who had kidnapped and beaten him.  A forensic examination was carried out which found various bodily injuries which the doctors assessed as of medium severity. On 29 October the Prosecutor’s Office issued a refusal to initiate a criminal investigation stating that he had light bodily injuries and that the police officers had not been involved in inflicting them.

On 19 November 2010, Strogan, together with representatives of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, gave a press conference at which he spoke of what had happened to him in August.  Material from this press conference was widely circulated in Kharkiv and throughout the country.

On 1 December 2010, Strogan took part in hearings on human rights observance by the police held by a Parliamentary Committee, during which his story was once again reported and noted by the Human Rights Ombudsperson.

Throughout August to December Strogan was constantly at the prosecutor’s office demanding that an investigation be undertaken into his torture allegations and offering to assist with the investigation.

On 9 December Strogan was summoned to the investigator at the Kievsky District Police Station as a witness for interrogation over the incident with his neighbour. There he was arrested. As became clear, after he published information about the events in August, a criminal investigation was initiated over the fight with his neighbour, and Strogan was accused of attempting to murder his neighbour, M.

According to the investigator, during the examination carried out 2 and a half months after the fight, M. was found to have bodily injuries of medium severity in the form of knife wounds. Two months later M. also asserted that Strogan had a knife during their fight. The justification for the arrest states that Strogan could try to hide from the police.

On 9 December, Strogan’s wife saw her husband in the Kievsky District Police Station without any visible injuries.

On 10 December at around 15.30 he was brought to the Kievsky District Court to decide whether he was to be remanded in custody.  His wife and representatives of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group present in the court saw considerable bleeding around his left eye, a red patch on his neck and signs of bleeding on his body. Strogan had difficulty in both moving and breathing. In the courtroom, he became weak and at his wife’s insistence an ambulance was called. The ambulance found that Strogan had a closed skull and brain injury and concussion and needed to be seen by a neurosurgeon. Judge Muratova did not allow him to be hospitalized and even gave a validol tablet (with mild sedative and vascular dilation effect).

It is known that on the evening of 9 December an ambulance was also called for Strogan which identified bodily injuries. He was also taken to a neurosurgeon during the night from 9 to 10 December.

During the hearing Strogan explained that after being arrested he was beaten by the police officers involved in his beating in August. He also stated that investigator Ishchenko present at the hearing had taken part in the beating.

After examining the material presented by the investigation, Judge Muratova remanded Strogan in custody. The only grounds were that Strogan had a previous conviction. The judge did not take into account the fact that over several months Strogan had not only not attempted to abscond, but had constantly been in contact with the law enforcement agencies. The surety offered by the Kharkiv Human Rights Group to ensure his appearance in court was also not taken into account without any reason being given.

At the present time it is not clear what measures Judge Muratova and Prosecutor Surzhenko (who both heard Strogan’s allegations about torture in the Kievsky District Police Station) have taken with regard to the allegations.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group sent a telegram on 10 December 2010 to the Prosecutor’s Office demanding that the circumstances of his beating be investigated.

Strogan was only placed in a SIZO on 11 December having been under the control of his alleged torturers.

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