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Russian Activists Arrested Protesting New Police Law

Police officers remove a "Left Front" activist
Police officers remove a "Left Front" activist
Four activists from Russia's opposition Left Front movement have been arrested in Moscow while protesting the country's new law on police, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Sergei Udaltsov, a coordinator for the Left Front, told RFE/RL that police arrested the activists in front of the Interior Ministry building on March 1.

Rights activists have expressed concern about a provision in the law banning police officers from discussing their superiors' orders publicly or voicing their opinions in the media.

Critics fear this will discourage police whistle-blowers like Aleksei Dymovsky, a police officer who denounced rampant police corruption in his hometown of Novorossiisk in a video posted on the Internet.

Dymovsky's act inspired a series of similar Internet postings in which law-enforcement officers described how police routinely extorted money from ordinary Russians and framed innocent people. Most whistle-blowers eventually faced harassment, prosecution, or both.

President Dmitry Medvedev signed several decrees on March 1 implementing the law. It was passed by parliament on January 28.

The law, which officially changes the name of law-enforcement officers from militia to "police," mandates competency tests for all police personnel, including Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliev.

It also spells out the duties and conduct of police and lists restrictions and other bans related to their service.

Additionally, the law makes it mandatory for suspects detained by police to be read their rights, including the right to refuse to give testimony. And it stipulates that all detainees have the right to one phone call.

Read more in Russian here