Eighteen Russian prison officials dismissed over rape and torture allegations

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Russia’s prison service says it has dismissed 18 people over a scandal involving alleged videos of rape and torture.

Footage released in October claimed to show a prisoner being sexually abused with a pole at a prison hospital in Saratov in central Russia.

The videos were released by the NGO Gulagu.net, which said it had received hundreds of reports of systematic torture in Russian prisons.

The allegations led to the head of the local penitentiary service resigning as investigations were launched.

On Wednesday, the acting director of the region’s prison service Anton Efarkin stated that eighteen officials have been dismissed.

Efarkin also said that eleven people were being prosecuted for the “most serious” disciplinary violations.

“We are doing everything to get to the bottom of it and come to the necessary conclusions,” he told local television. “I am sure that this will not happen again in the future.”

Russia’s prison system is regularly marred by torture scandals, committed by guards or other inmates.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that “checks” were underway after the scandal, adding that the “system had reacted”.

Russian authorities have also dropped charges against the whistleblower who made the revelations.

Sergei Savalev, a former Belarusian prisoner, had access to videos of torture during his detention and shared the videos with Gulagu.net. Savalev has since sought political asylum in France, saying he feared reprisals from Moscow.

He had been facing criminal charges for “abusive access” to computer data, but the Saratov region prosecutor had stated that the allegations were “illegal and unfounded”.

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According to a court decision published on Wednesday by Gulagu.net, the charges against Savalev have been dismissed.

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