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Pavlo Hryb in a Russian court in October 2017

A court in Russia halted the trial of a 20-year-old Ukrainian man charged with abetting terrorism shortly after it got under way, sending the case back for additional investigation.

Pavlo Hryb, who denies the charge and whose family contends he was set up by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), went on trial at the North Caucasus Regional Military Court in Rostov-on-Don on July 23.

But the court said it found that the formal charge against Hryb was based on a clause of the Criminal Code that had not been in place at the time of the alleged crime.

There was no indication that Hryb would be released from custody.

Hryb pleaded not guilty after he hearing began, saying that "critical mistakes have been made during the investigation."

Hryb went missing in August 2017 after he traveled to Belarus to meet a woman he met online.

Relatives believe he walked into a trap set by the FSB, which later told Ukraine that Hryb was being held in a detention center in Russia on suspicion of abetting terrorism.

Russian investigators accuse Hryb of using the Internet to instruct a teenage girl in Russia's southern city of Sochi to carry out a terrorist act using an explosive device.

Hryb's father, Ihor Hryb, has argued that the case against his son was Russian retaliation for Internet posts that were openly critical of Russia's interference in Ukraine.

Russia seized control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014, after sending in troops and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by at least 100 countries. Moscow backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has condemned what it called Russia's "persecution of Ukrainian citizens in Russia and elsewhere, groundless detentions of Ukrainians, violation of their rights to have fair trials, and their convictions on fabricated and politically motivated charges."

With reporting by TASS, Rapsinews, and RIA Novosti
The video shows a prisoner lying on a desk without pants while two people in uniform forcibly hold his hands up behind his back. At least 10 other men in uniform methodically hit the man's legs and heels with rubber truncheons and fists.

A lawyer who gave a Russian newspaper a video showing the brutal beating of a prison inmate has fled the country while seeking protection from state law enforcement authorities.

The Public Verdict Foundation said on July 23 that Irina Biryukova, who is a lawyer with the NGO, left the country the day the video was published by the independent Novaya Gazeta last week.

Biryukova has sent a letter to the head of the federal Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, urging the Russian authorities to provide security to provide for her safety and that of her family, Public Verdict said on Facebook.

Amnesty International has also urged Russian authorities to "immediately protect" Biryukova.

The 10-minute video, posted online by Novaya Gazeta on July 20, has shocked viewers inside and outside Russia and deepened concerns about allegations of torture in the country's jails, prisons, and police precincts.

The video, which Public Verdict said was shot at Corrective Colony No. 1 in the Yaroslavl region, northeast of Moscow, shows a prisoner identified as Yevgeny Makarov lying on a desk without pants while two people in uniform forcibly hold his hands up behind his back. At least 10 other uniformed men methodically hit the man's legs and heels with rubber truncheons and fists, while he cries and begs them to stop beating him.

"Irina Biryukova's brave decision to expose the appalling abuse within IK-1 penal colony is the latest example of her dedication to protecting others from torture and other ill-treatment. It is alarming that her act of courage has forced her to flee the country in fear," Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a July 23 statement.

The Investigative Committee said on July 23 that all the officers who took part in the beating have been identified and six of them have been detained. Yaroslavl regional ombudsman Sergei Baburkin said on July 22 that 17 FSIN officers had been suspended over the video.

Amnesty said in its statement that Biryukova and Makarov's protection "must be a priority for the Russian authorities" and called for "an independent and impartial" investigation into the threats against the lawyer and the allegations of torture against Makarov.

Novaya Gazeta said that the video was shot in June 2017.

Reports of systemic torture in the Yaroslavl facility, and in Russian prisons generally, have circulated for some time.

In April 2017, Public Verdict said that Makarov and two other inmates at the Yaroslavl prison -- Ruslan Vakhapov, and Ivan Nepomnyashchikh -- had been tortured by guards there.

Nepomnyashchikh, who was imprisoned following clashes at a protest on the eve of President Vladimir Putin's inauguration in 2012, served his 30-month term at the Yaroslavl prison.

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to thoroughly investigate the allegations, but a court in Yaroslavl ruled that investigations were not necessary, citing a purported lack of evidence.

"We remain extremely concerned for the safety of Yevgeny Makarov and the thousands of others detained in Russian pre-trial detention centres, penal colonies and police stations where allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are rife and investigations are rare," Amnesty said in its July 23 statement.

With reporting by Novaya Gazeta, TASS, and Interfax

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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