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Video Shows 'Fatal' Beating Of Moldovan Traffic Violator

When traffic cops stopped him for speeding in Moldova back in August, Andrei Braguta's ordeal was just beginning.

He was thrown into a cell at a detention center in the capital, Chisinau, where surveillance video appears to show inmates brutally beating him for over an hour as guards look on.

Watch Video of the Attack (Warning: disturbing images)

Braguta eventually died in hospital. But of what? His family says it was from injuries sustained in the attack. But authorities claim that a case of pneumonia killed the 31-year-old.

Amnesty International says Braguta's fate, while tragic, is not uncommon in Moldova.

Now, after a public outcry, the Prosecutor-General's Office has done an about-face.

It announced on October 24 that it had filed criminal charges against seven individuals for involvement in Braguta's death -- three police officers and four inmates at the detention center in Chisinau who were present at the time of the attack.

They could face prison sentences ranging from eight to 15 years if found guilty.

All deny wrongdoing. Inmates say Braguta had already been beaten when he was brought to the cell.

Prosecutors have released surveillance footage of the attack.

Investigations continue, prosecutors say, into 10 other officers at the detention facility. Questions are being asked about the actions, or lack thereof, taken by senior officers.

Despite the opening of criminal proceedings, the Prosecutor-General’s Office still believes Braguta died of pneumonia, according to Ion Caracuian, the head of the body's antitorture unit.

Yes, Braguta was beaten, Caracuian says, but he died as he lay on the floor of his cell, which was cold. Caracuian also points to a forensic report that shows Bragula contracted pneumonia prior to his death.

"The death of Andrei Braguta, according to the forensic report, was caused by breathing difficulties brought on by the pneumonia, an illness that developed four days before his death," Caracuian says.

Vadim Vieru, a lawyer representing the family of the victim, says the blame for Braguta's death is widespread. "From police who refused to call in specialized medical staff, to police officers who refused to administer drugs [provided by] the victim's father."

Braguta's case highlights the brutal conditions inmates face in Moldova's prisons, Amnesty International says.

Cristina Pereteatcu, Amnesty's executive director in Moldova, says prisoners are kept in degrading conditions. It is not uncommon, he says, for them to sleep on bare cement, wrapped in newspapers to keep warm.

A tragic chain of inaction resulted in Braguta's death, Pereteatcu says.

"All people who could have made the right decision in this regard made a decision to be accomplices to the death of this man," he says. "That it is emphasized that the man died because of pneumonia is not right. The man died in state custody, he was beaten, in the first place, and nobody intervened."

Written by Tony Wesolowsky with reporting by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service

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