Russia issues arrest warrant for whistleblower who denounced torture in prison

Russia’s response was not long in coming. The country has placed on the wanted list a Belarusian national who has requested political asylum in France, after having been the source of wide-ranging revelations of systematic rape and torture in Russian prisons.

According to a notice published on the website of the Russian Interior Ministry, consulted this Saturday by AFP, Sergei Savelev, 31, is wanted in the context of a criminal case, without further details.

The young man was jailed for seven and a half years in Russia for a drug trafficking case and released in February 2021. During his detention, under the guise of computer maintenance, he said he downloaded a large number of videos showing ill-treatment and rape organized through the huge Russian penitentiary system.

Russian power “is still trying to silence me”

In early October, the publication of one of these unbearable videos, that of the rape of a detainee with a pole in a prison-hospital in Saratov, sparked a scandal in Russia. The Kremlin has promised to open investigations into these abuses and at least four prison officials have been sacked.

However, claiming to fear reprisals from the Russian authorities, Sergei Savelev arrived in France last week where he requested political asylum. This Saturday, he estimated that he was being prosecuted in Russia “for divulging state secrets”.

“The Russian power uses the only methods it knows and considers appropriate, force and intimidation, and still tries to silence me,” he said in a video published by the NGO Gulagu.net. According to him, the authorities prefer “to waste time trying to cover up the truth” rather than “reforming the prison system” or “punishing all those involved in this torture factory”.

In an interview last Sunday with AFP, he explained that he had acted because it was “very difficult psychologically” to keep such horrors for him.

The Russian prison system is very regularly marred by torture scandals, committed in a quasi-institutionalized manner by guards or other detainees at their orders, in particular in order to obtain confessions under duress.

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