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St. Petersburg Subway Bombing Suspect Recants Confession, Claims Torture, Blackmail

Abror Azimov, a Kyrgyz citizen, has been charged with organizing an attack that killed 15 people and injured 67 others.(file photo)

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- A suspect on trial over a deadly 2017 subway blast in Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, has recanted his confession claiming it was made under torture and threats of blackmail.

Abror Azimov, a Kyrgyz citizen who is charged with organizing the attack that killed 15 people and injured 67 others, said at the high-profile trial on October 17 that Federal Security Service (FSB) officers beat him and threatened to plant a fire extinguisher filled with explosives in his father's house to make him a suspect as well.

"I had to incriminate myself because I was blackmailed," Azimov told the court.

The 11 defendants in the case -- all natives of Central Asian former Soviet republics -- have pleaded not guilty, with some, including Azimov's brother Akram, claiming they were tortured while in custody both before and after they went on trial in early April.

Investigators say that on April 3, 2017, 22-year-old suicide bomber Akbarjon Jalilov, an ethnic-Uzbek Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan, detonated a bomb in a subway carriage while it was between two stations.

A second explosive was left at a station platform, but it was found and safely defused.

Abror Azimov was later pronounced to be the mastermind behind the attack.

He and the 10 other defendants are charged with being members of a terrorist group, supporting terrorist activity, and the illegal production and sale of explosive devices.