Moscow (AFP) - Prominent Russian rights activists said Monday that torture is widely used in a northern penal colony, citing fresh allegations after claims from a jailed opposition member serving a sentence there.
Ildar Dadin, who is serving two-and-a-half years in penal colony No 7 in Karelia region, earlier this month in a letter smuggled out to his wife accused guards of beating him.
"Many ex-convicts and relatives of victims confirm the information given by Dadin on regular torture, humiliation and beatings in the Karelia colony," said rights activist Lev Ponomaryov at a press conference where relatives of other convicts spoke.
"The most common torture technique is stretching, when both legs are stretched out at the same time," said Larisa Geliskhanova, mother of another prisoner.
She said Dadin's allegations "are word for word what my son Zelimkhan has lived through."
"My son had all his ligaments torn," she added.
Dadin, 34, was sent to the colony after being convicted late last year for repeatedly protesting without permission: the first peaceful protester sentenced to jail time under Russia's controversial recent legislation.
Dadin said in his letter that guards beat him four times on his second day at the colony, put his head in a toilet bowl in the isolation cell, hung him up in handcuffs and threatened him with death.
Russia's federal penitentiary service (FSIN) denies wrongdoing. A deputy chief of the service said Monday that Dadin was a "talented imitator" while rights activists who support him "had not a single true and confirmed fact" of torture.
Rights activists, however, say there is corroboration.
"Seven or eight other people confirm what Dadin claims," anti-torture activist Igor Kalyapin, who visited him this month, told Interfax. "I saw the object from which he was suspended in handcuffs and I saw the wounds left from the handcuffs."
Another attendee, Zhanetta Gabzayeva, said his son "was hung from his feet and hit with a hammer until he passed out."
Dadin's jailing was condemned by international rights groups. Russians have also picketed the penal service headquarters in Moscow to protest the use of torture in the country's prisons.
Last week a European Parliament resolution called for Dadin's "immediate and unconditional release" and urged Russia to "carry out a thorough review of its penitentiary system with a view to undertaking a deep reform."
It also called for targeted sanctions against individuals responsible for mistreating Dadin and other activists.