Human Rights Watch (HRW) says the failure by Russian authorities to investigate alleged fabrication of evidence and torture against 11 people convicted over a deadly 2017 subway blast in St. Petersburg is an “affront” to the attack victims and their families.
The judgment is “clouded by allegations that authorities trumped up evidence against those convicted, all of them of Central Asian origin," Tanya Lokshina, associate director of the Europe and Central Asia Division at HRW, said in a statement on December 11.
A day earlier, a court in Russia's second-largest city handed down sentences ranging from 19 years to life imprisonment to the 11 convicted defendants.
All of them had pleaded not guilty to charges of being members of a terrorist group, supporting terrorist activity, and the illegal production and sale of explosive devices.
Some of them claimed they were tortured, including Kyrgyz-born Abror Azimov and his brother, Akram.
“Instead of effectively investigating these allegations, authorities threatened to disbar one of the brothers’ lawyers. They also arbitrarily deported Azimov’s relatives, withdrawing their Russian citizenship,” Lokshina said.
“The failure to conduct an official probe into alleged fabrication of evidence and torture violates the accused’s rights and is an affront to the St. Petersburg attack victims and their families, who deserve to know whether justice was genuinely served,” she added.
The April 3, 2017, attack claimed the lives of 15 people and injured dozens more.