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Russian Man Cuts Off Fingers Over Wife's Alleged Rape By Police

  • RFE/RL

A Russian man has cut off two of his fingers in a grisly quest for justice after his wife reported being raped in police custody -- and was then accused of filing a false claim.

Igor Gubanov cut off his left pinky with a hacksaw on August 8 to draw attention to his demand that the authorities release surveillance-camera footage from the police station where he and his wife, Salima Mukhamedyanova, say she was raped by an officer in January.

"I took this saw, and I put my hand in the bathtub and sawed, like this," Gubanov told RFE/RL's Current Time television. "There is some blood and a piece of bone. To be honest, it was painful and unpleasant."

Gubanov said he would sever a digit every Monday until the video was released – and made good on his word by cutting off the ring finger on the same hand on August 15.

He then said he would stop sawing off his fingers and resort to "legal" means to achieve justice.

The street sweeper's self-mutilation was a particularly desperate measure to bring the authorities to account in Russia, where allegations of violence and torture in police custody are common despite reform efforts during Dmitry Medvedev's 2008-12 presidency.

Gubanov and Mukhamedyanova were detained on January 26 at the Lenin district police station in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk after a dispute with a neighbor in their communal apartment. Police let the couple go after compiling a report for a misdemeanor.

Shortly afterward, they were detained again without explanation and Mukhamedyanova was raped by a police officer while in custody, Gubanov said.

He told the Public Verdict Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that has given the couple legal and psychological assistance, that police then told them to keep quiet.

The couple left Magnitogorsk, fearing reprisals, and filed an official complaint in the neighboring Bashkortostan region.

Police conducted forensic examinations over the rape claim but also began putting pressure on the alleged victim, her husband, and their lawyer, the Public Verdict Foundation said. Police then closed the case and opened proceedings against Mukhamedyanova, accusing her of purposefully submitting a false report.

After cutting off the second finger, Gubanov said he would halt that form of protest. "This does not mean that I have stopped insisting on the proper investigation of the case, and the dropping of charges against my wife," Gubanov was quoted as saying in a statement released by the Public Verdict Foundation.

He indicated that he had succeeded in prompting a public outcry over the alleged police abuse and said it was now important to "achieve my objectives through legal means."