Russian security services tortured left-wing activists as part of the controversial “Penza Case.” Agents accused the men of belonging to an anarchist group known as “Set” (Network) and supposedly plotting to destabilize the country.
All of the men- Viktor Filinkov, Ilya Shakursky, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Ilya Kapustin, Egor Zorin, Vasily Kuksov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, Andrey Chernov and Arman Sagynbayev- are in their twenties. They share an interest in political activism, left-wing ideology and playing the game “airsoft,” a competitive team sport similar to paintball.
Defense attorneys say the case against the men depicts airsoft training as the “illegal acquisition of forest survival skills and first aid skills.” They are being detained and awaiting trial in 2019.
The evidence available to the public contains no proof any of the men planned terrorist attacks. In fact, they aren’t being accused of planning any attacks, rather, they are being charged with participating in a group whose aim was to replace Russia’s “constitutional system with an anarchist system.”
Most of the men initially signed confessions, but recanted their testimony, saying they had been tortured by authorities.
Dmitry Pchelintsev recounted his torture in the basement of the Penza pretrial detention center: “They began to pull down my pants. I was lying on my stomach, and they tried to put wires on my genitals. I started screaming and begging them to stop. They kept saying, ‘So you’re the leader!’ To make them stop the torture, I said, ‘Yes, I’m the leader!’ They answered, ‘You planned to commit terrorist acts,‘ and I said, ‘Yes, we planned to commit terrorist acts.’”
Ilya Shakursky was tortured in the same detention center: “They attached some kind of wires to my big toes. I felt an electric shock and couldn’t help groaning and shaking. They repeated the treatment until I promised to say what they told me to say. From that time on, I forgot the word ‘No’ and said whatever the officers wanted.”
Filinkov, gave a detailed account of everything that happened to him after his arrest at Pulkovo airport: “He alternated shocks to the leg and shocks to the handcuffs. […] I caved almost immediately, within the first 10 minutes. I screamed, ‘Tell me what to say! I’ll say anything!’ but the violence didn’t stop.”
Igor Shishkin hasn’t accused authorities of mistreatment, but evidence suggests he was tortured while in jail. The public monitoring commission found burn marks from electric wires and doctors found he had a fractured eye-socket and bruises and abrasions all over his body. While in custody, Shishkin signed a document stating he sustained the injuries while working out.
Human rights commission officials visited Pchelintsev after he reported being tortured, but he told them that he’d lied about the mistreatment “to evade criminal liability.” Not long after, he recanted, explaining he was being threatened with more torture if he didn’t do what authorities wanted him to do.