MOSCOW (AP) — A jailed Russian opposition activist says he has been tortured by prison guards who carried out group beatings and threatened to rape and murder him.
Ildar Dadin said he was assaulted regularly, hung up with handcuffs, stripped naked and had his head flushed in a toilet in a series of incidents after his September transfer to a prison in northwestern Russia, according to a letter sent to his wife and released Tuesday to Russian media.
"The guards arrived, bound me behind my back and hung me from my handcuffs. Such a hanging leads to terrible pain in your wrists, dislocates your elbow joints and makes you feel sharp pain in your back," Dadin said in the letter describing what happened to him Sept. 12.
"If I am again faced with torture, beatings and rape I am unlikely to hold out more than a week," he said.
Russian prison officials cast doubt Tuesday on the claims. "Not one physical injury has been found on Dadin," said the deputy head of Russia's prison service. Valery Maksimenko, according to Russian news agency Interfax. Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta quoted an unidentified local prison service official as acknowledging that physical force had been used on Dadin, but only when he refused to leave his cell or defied prison guards.
President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told journalists the incident should be investigated by the relevant authorities.
Dadin, who is serving a 2½-year sentence, was convicted last year of breaking strict new laws regulating public demonstrations that Russia passed in 2014. Human rights groups say he is a political prisoner who was only involved in nonviolent protests.
Dadin's wife, Anastasia Zotova, wrote on social media Tuesday that she had not had any contact with her husband since he was transferred to prison colony IK-7 in the northwestern region of Karelia. Tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia on what were widely considered politically motivated charges, was also held at IK-7.
In a Tuesday statement, Amnesty International said Dadin's allegations fitted with other reports of abuse in Russian prisons. "We are urging Russian authorities to end the pattern of impunity for torture and other ill-treatment and investigate Ildar Dadin's appalling allegations," said Sergey Nikitin, director of Amnesty International in Russia.
Several dozen supporters of Dadin held a picket in central Moscow on Tuesday calling for the case to be investigated.
"He protested several times with a poster and they gave him several years in prison. ... Now this person is not only in prison but being tortured. How can we stand for this?" demonstrator Sergei Ozhich said.