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Outcry After Russian Police Chief Makes Case For Torture In Memoirs

  • Tom Balmforth

Tatarstan Interior Minister Asgat Safarov's memoirs have provoked a backlash

Tatarstan Interior Minister Asgat Safarov's memoirs have provoked a backlash

The top law-enforcement official in the Russian republic of Tatarstan is facing a fresh wave of public anger after published memoirs came to light in which he denounces the abolition of the death penalty and appears to make a case for the use of torture.

Interior Minister Asgat Safarov's memoirs were published in February, just weeks before the Kazan police force he oversees was rocked by scandal after a citizen died of injuries allegedly sustained while in police custody.

The police force's alleged use of torture and rape in the case attracted intense federal scrutiny and led to calls for Safarov's resignation.

Those calls have resurfaced this week after Russian media published excerpts from "The End of A Kazan Phenomenon -- The History Of The Liquidation Of Organized Crime Groups In Tatarstan."

In one extract, widely quoted in Russian media, police chief Safarov writes:

"The 'humanitarians' may throw rocks at me, but it is my deep personal conviction that if a criminal has taken the life of another, then he must pay with his own. And that is even extremely humane. The cruelty of the Middle Ages had a logical explanation -- if you cannot execute a murderer several times, then you take his life in the most agonizing way so that it is an example to all the others."

Controversial Death

The memoirs were published in February, but have only just come to light amid public outcry over the death of 52-year-old Sergei Nazarov, who was apprehended for theft.

Nazarov was delivered to a hospital from police custody on March 11. After he was diagnosed with a ruptured lower intestine, doctors operated on him, but he slipped into a coma and died. He reportedly told doctors he had been raped with a champagne bottle.

Safarov's memoirs were published in February

Safarov's memoirs were published in February

Igor Sholokhov, head of the Kazan Human Rights Center, said he has not yet read Safarov's memoirs but said they should be heavily scrutinized.

"The ban on torture is absolute -- under no circumstance or cases can you carry out torture. This is a global law. You can't torture a little bit, just as you can't be pregnant a little bit. Either it's torture or it isn't torture," Sholokhov said.

On March 23, Anatoly Kucherena, a member of Russia's Public Chamber, a state advisory body, called for Safarov's resignation.

Speaking to Interfax, Kucherena said: "if the mass media reports with extracts from this book are real, then there is no place for this kind of Interior Ministry employee, even more so if he is the head [of the ministry]. Either he must hand in his notice, or he should be relieved of his duties."

Nazarov's case, which spurred over 100 activists to protest against police arbitrariness in the republic, continues to resonate and empower other citizens to come forward and tell their own alleged tales of police abuse.

Sholokov said that his Kazan Human Rights Center has seen a "spike" in appeals for help. Ten people have appealed to the center in the last 12 days specifically about police abuse, compared to one or two in a usual month, he said.

Twenty-eight cases have reportedly been submitted to Russia's Investigative Committee.

Five police officers have been arrested in connection to Nazarov's death. They, and three other officers of the Dalny police station where Nazarov was held, have been fired.
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    Tom Balmforth

    Tom Balmforth covers Russia and other former Soviet republics. He can be reached at


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