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France Urged To Grant Asylum To Russian Prisons Whistle-Blower


Syarhey Savelyeu fled to France last month after he released graphic video evidence of hundreds of cases of inmate torture by other inmates at the direction of prison officials. (file photo)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is urging France to grant asylum to a Belarus-born man responsible for last month's massive leak of videos exposing mistreatment, torture, and sexual abuse in Russian prisons.

In a statement on November 5, the Paris-based media-freedom watchdog also called on Russia to drop all charges against Syarhey Savelyeu, who fled to France last month after he released graphic video evidence of hundreds of cases of inmate torture by other inmates at the direction of prison officials.

After placing Savelyeu on a wanted list on October 23 and announcing his "arrest in absentia," Russian authorities are reportedly planning to submit an international wanted notice for the IT specialist to Interpol.

"While such accusations are not new, this is the first time that videos of torture and sexual abuse carried out at the request of the very Russian prison administration have been brought to the public's attention," said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

Savelyeu "must be protected because of these shocking revelations about the prison system," she added.

The prisoners' rights nongovernmental organization Gulagu.net has published some of the videos provided by Savelyeu and reported on their contents.

Founder Vladimir Osechkin told RFE/RL that the organization will forward all the materials it received from Savelyeu to authorities in France.

Five senior prison officials have been fired since Gulagu.net published the leaked videos.

Savelyeu was arrested in Russia in 2013 on a drug-trafficking charge he denies. As an IT specialist, he helped operate a prison computer network that gave him access to the videos.

Gulagu.net has said guards and other prison officials bribed or forced inmates to torture other inmates in order to secure false testimony. The videos purportedly show hundreds of cases of rape and other mistreatment at Russian prisons and pretrial detention centers in several regions.

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