On the evening of October 19, Ilnaz Pirkin was released from a Nizhnekamsk police station where he had been questioned for almost the entire day. Instead of going home, however, he went to the top of a nearby high rise and committed suicide by leaping from the roof.
He was 22 years old.
But before he killed himself, Pirkin recorded a video on his mobile phone in which he detailed the alleged abuse he endured as police compelled him to confess to no fewer than 47 thefts from parked cars.
"I asked them, 'are you the police?'" Pirkin said, describing how he was detained on the street and hustled into the back of a car. "They said 'no' and drove off into the forest. They began intimidating me with all sorts of words. I don't know their names, but I know what unit they belonged to -- the car unit. They were young guys. They told me they weren't from the police, but that they had brought along shovels to make sure I told them everything."
By his own admission, Pirkin's story began on October 15 when, on a dare with a friend named Anur, he broke into a Lada car and stole the stereo. After the incident had been reported to police, relatives of the owner of the car found the loot advertised by a man named Anur on an Internet classified-advertising site in Kazan. They confronted Anur, who gave back the stereo and told them he had gotten it from Pirkin.
'Covered In Bruises'
A few days later the police picked up both Anur and Pirkin. By the end of the day, Pirkin would be dead.
"They brought in a gas mask," Pirkin continued in his final video, describing what happened after the police officers took him from the forest to a local precinct. "A gas mask -- that's the real deal. It works 100 percent. They put the gas mask on you. It has a tube coming out of it. They close off the tube and you have no air. It isn't just that there isn't much air. There is none."
"They beat me," he continued. "I'm covered in bruises. You can see them on my hips, around my shins, on my left arm. You can document this. What else can I say? They just now released me. I came straight here. Today I bore false witness. Yes, of course, I signed all the papers that they wrote so they would stop pressuring me. It says I did it voluntarily. I'm telling you this is not true."
The coroner reported that he found no signs of torture on Pirkin's body. The coroner's office, however, is located in the same building as the police precinct where the alleged abuse took place. At least one other former prisoner has told RFE/RL that he was beaten in that police station and the medical examiner also claimed to have found no signs of abuse.
'Compelled To Confess'
"[Pirkin's] family told me an interesting detail," said Andrei Suchkov, a lawyer of the Rights Zone (Zona Prava) NGO who is representing Pirkin's family. "Usually in such situations it is very difficult to get the body back, but they got their son back very quickly. The authorities even arranged a grave site. It is possible this was done in order to hide evidence. The parents are Muslims and they must bury a body immediately. Apparently the police figured that no one would examine [Pirkin's body]."
Pirkin's family, however, was not satisfied. Together with human rights activists, they appealed to the Investigative Committee to look into their son's case. On November 2, the committee filed a criminal case of "exceeding one's authority" against three unidentified police officers, who were taken into custody.
"At present, the case looks like this," Suchkov said. "A person was taken into police custody where he underwent a severe beating as a result of which he was compelled to confess to a number of crimes. He decided to bear witness to the fact that he was beaten because he knew that he could not get the truth out [otherwise], and after that he killed himself."
In a video message to his parents, Pirkin said he did not commit the other crimes and that police were threatening him with up to 10 years in prison, which he could not bear.
"He asked them to find his telephone, which he left at the scene," Suchkov said. "The telephone was found by police from the same precinct and it was with them for two days, but they were unable to unblock it. The deceased was good with technology and had locked it securely. After two days, the police returned the phone to his parents, who were able to find someone to unlock it. There, they found the video."
He added that the authorities likely acted so quickly because of Pirkin's video testimony.
Fear Of Retribution
A local resident who asked only to be identified by her first name, Veronika, out of fear of retribution, told RFE/RL that her husband, Vladimir, helped the owner of the car, Nikolai, get his stereo back in Kazan. She said both men were also beaten by police, apparently for taking matters into their own hands and peacefully resolving the conflict with Pirkin.
Vladimir was detained in his home on October 25 and taken to a police station, where he was interrogated by an officer who identified himself only as Rinat.
When Vladimir refused to answer questions, "Rinat began to beat him with his fists about the head," Veronika said. "[When he came home,] he still had bleeding wounds on his face."
At the police station, Vladimir also saw Nikolai.
"We later learned that the officers who had arrested [Pirkin] had picked [Nikolai] up outside his house, taken him to the forest, and beaten him there," Veronika said.
"The police, most likely, were unhappy that they were not able to claim in their report that they had solved the crime," she concluded.
It is still difficult for Pirkin's mother to discuss her son's death, and his final video remains nearly impossible for her to listen to.
"They tortured me for a long time," he said near the end of his testimonial. "Finally I began to shout: 'I confess. I confess.' I don't know how it happened, but eventually they stopped. In the end, I lost consciousness. When I woke up, it is embarrassing to say, it turned out I had wet myself. I guess that is what happens when you pass out, when you have no air in your lungs. It is really bad. You can exhale through a gas mask that has been blocked, but you cannot inhale."
Written by RFE/RL senior correspondent Robert Coalson based on reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service correspondent Mark Krutov.