Russia probes school principal's pre-trial death

11th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian investigators launched a criminal probe Tuesday into the death of a Moscow school principal who was held in pre-trial detention on suspicion of taking an $7,500 bribe to admit a student.

Andrei Kudoyarov, 48, suffered a fatal heart attack on Saturday after spending nearly five months in prison as investigators prepared his case for trial after charging him of taking a bribe of 240,000 rubles ($7,500) from a parent.

"As part of this probe investigators are to find out whether there is a link between the actions of officials and prison doctors and the accused man's death," the Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Kudoyarov's death has already made ripples in Russian society, with rights activists saying his case proves that nothing has changed since the outrage over the death of jailed lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009.

The case of Magnitsky, 37, who spent nearly a year in detention and died of an untreated heart condition and pancreatitis, exposed rights abuses in prison and raised the liberalisation of Russia's criminal law to the top of President Dmitry Medvedev's agenda.

"The issue is not whether the principal took bribes or not," analyst Sergei Aleksashenko said in a comment in the Vedomosti daily. "The issue is that despite all the beautiful words about reforming the police, another Russian citizen who should not have been in prison has died there."

Kudoyarov had a chronic heart condition and the judge was warned that jailing him might lead to his death, the principal's lawyer Alexander Manov told the Kommersant daily.

Manov previously argued that his client was innocent, and the money in question was a voluntary donation to the school made after the child was already admitted into first grade that would finance a renovation project.

Moscow school 1308 in the prestigious southwestern part of the city is a public institution with a focus on English and German languages, according to its website.

Public schools routinely complain of being underfunded, and Russian parents are accustomed to annual extortion by school officials to pay for repairs or supplement teachers' salaries.

© 2011 AFP

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