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Sergei Magnitsky's Letter From Prison

Sanitary and hygienic conditions are simply revolting:

There is no running hot water in my cell, despite the fact that the facilities for hot water are there. My complaints about this merely led to a worsening of my conditions.

The cells that I have been held in were designed to provide 1.7 to 2.7 square meters per prisoner.

In all my cells, the toilet has consisted simply of a hole in the floor. In most of my cells, it has been open to view from the rest of the cell. In most cases, the beds of prisoners are placed less than 1 meter from the toilet.

Facilities in the cells are not repaired. Because of a problem with the plumbing, the floor in one cell that I was held in was flooded with several centimeters of sewage for 35 hours. Missing window frames in one cell were repaired only after numerous complaints and only several weeks after the initial appeal. During that time I became ill from the cold.

The opportunity to wash and take a shower was provided just once a week and on specific days. If I happened to be in court on that day, the opportunity to wash was postponed for another week.

The tables in the cells are so small that only one person can use them at a time. The others must eat standing up or sitting on their beds. For the same reason it is often necessary to write while sitting on the bed.

There are no televisions or refrigerators in the cells. The prison administration says they have no televisions or refrigerators in storage and that we must get them from our relatives. At the same time, they tell our relatives that they must get such things from the prison warehouse.

Isolation from society and family:

I have been practically deprived of any opportunity to receive information about what is happening in the world or to get news from members of my family.

My letters are sent and received with considerable delays. Instead of three to five days, as was the case earlier when I was held in other prisons, letters now take 15-30 days to reach me. Many of the letters that I have sent were never delivered.

The newspapers that the prison administration provides once or twice a month were often published two or three years ago. The newspapers that are sent to me by my relatives come irregularly and with considerable delays.

In my six weeks at Butyrsky Prison, I have not managed to have a television put in my cell, whereas there have been televisions in the cells in every other prison where I have been held.

The radio receiver that is promised under prison rules has not been provided.

Opportunities to defend myself are significantly limited in Butyrsky Prison:

Complaints about my prison conditions rarely produce any results and most complaints are simply ignored. In one case, after I appealed to the higher authorities about my prison conditions, those conditions merely got worse.

The writing of complaints is difficult because of the very small tables in the cells.

Butyrsky Prison lacks facilities (or they are not presented to me) for copying documents that are necessary for my defense. My opportunity to defend myself is also hampered by long delays in receiving written correspondence and the fact that many letters are simply not delivered.

Because of the lines, my lawyers are usually only able to meet with me at the end of the working day. As a result, such meetings are quite restricted and rarely last more than 1 1/2 or two hours. Several times my lawyers have been unable to meet with me for several days because their turn in line didn't come up before the end of the working day.

The consideration of statements and complaints:

In my eight weeks at Butyrsky Prison I have issued nearly 50 statements and complaints addressed to the prison administration. More than half of them were not even considered -- at least, they garnered no response. The majority of the others were rejected, although none of them was turned down in writing. Only 20 percent were approved (mostly concerning notifications about the dates of delivery and registration numbers of statements and documents submitted to the court).

Medical treatment:

My medical appointments and examinations are not carried out. Repeated requests to be allowed to see a doctor have been essentially ignored. I was able to secure a doctor's appointment only one month after I requested it.

I was not given any medical aid in relation to my illness (pancreatitis), in connection with which the doctors at Matrosskaya Tishina had examined me and laid out a course of treatment. I was not given any medical recommendations regarding this illness and there was no effort to provide me with the necessary diet.

I was refused a medical examination until I would be transferred to another prison because Butyrsky does not have the necessary equipment. As for the prescribed course of treatment, I was told I could follow it when I was released.

My participation in court hearings is accompanied by cruel and degrading treatment. On the days when there are hearings, I leave my cell at 7 a.m. and return no earlier than 11 p.m. I get no hot food on those days. I am transported to the court in a vehicle that has 4 square meters and often holds 17 or 18 prisoners, and I must spend several hours in that vehicle.

Prisoners returning from the court are not immediately sent to their cells but can be kept for hours in holding cells. In one of these cells, there are no windows or ventilation. There is no drinking water and no normally functioning toilet.

After each court appearance, I must spend at least 1 1/2 to two hours in such conditions. These cells are about 20-22 square meters but often hold 70 people at one time. And many of them smoke, meaning that it is impossible to breathe.