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HRW: Suspects in organization of terrorist attack in St. Petersburg tortured

Two suspects in the St. Petersburg suicide bombing of April 3, 2017, have made credible allegations that Russian security agents forcibly disappeared them, tortured them, then staged their arrests, Human Rights Watch said.

Olga Dinze, the lawyer, told Human Rights Watch that the Justice Ministry ordered Russia’s bar association to hold a hearing on disbarring her for refusing to give government officials notes that her client wrote her during a confidential prison meeting in August. Dinze said she suspects the government is retaliating for the complaint she filed for her client, Akram Azimov, 29, and his brother, Abror Azimov, 26, who say they were held and severely tortured in a secret detention center apparently run by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in or near Moscow.

«Russia should be rigorously investigating allegations that state officials have severely abused suspects in the St. Petersburg case, not pursuing the lawyer who is making those claims public,» said Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch. «Threats, secret imprisonment, and torture could compromise justice for this heinous attack.»

The Council of Europe’s Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) should examine the Investigative Committee’s role and effectiveness in conducting investigations into torture allegations, to determine whether they meet Russia’s international obligations, Human Rights Watch said. The CPT conducts ongoing dialogue with Moscow as part of its follow up to periodic and ad hoc visits to the country. Human Rights Watch also urged Russia to respond favorably to the request by the UN Special Rapporteur on countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, to visit in 2018.

«The victims of the horrific St. Petersburg bombing and their families deserve justice,» Tayler said. «But a flawed investigation into the St. Petersburg attack is neither going to bring genuine justice or make people in Russia safer.»

Explosion in the St. Petersburg subway occurred on April 3. Victims of the terrorist attack were 15 people, including a suicide bomber, more than 50 people were injured.

Recall, the brothers Akram and Abror Azimov were born in Kyrgyzstan and received Russian citizenship in 2013. Like millions of labor migrants from Central Asia, they worked in Russia. Both are accused of committing crimes of a terrorist nature and the possession of weapons. Since the moment of their official arrest, they have been kept in separate cells of the Moscow Lefortovo detention center.