Russian court jails whistleblowing major for 4 years

9th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

A military court in far eastern Russia on Friday slapped a four-year sentence for abuse of power on a whistleblowing officer who had accused his regiment of feeding soldiers dog food.

In May, reserve major Igor Matveyev posted a series of videos online in which he showed a storeroom full of cans of dog food that had ordinary canned meat labels posted over them.

He alleged his superiors had fed the dog food to soldiers.

Military officials denied Matveyev's claims and claimed the major posted the videos as leverage in an attempt to be reinstated to active duty after systematic disciplinary offences.

On Friday, a Vladivostok military tribunal found Matveyev guilty of overstepping his authority after a separate incident in February when he hit two lower-ranking officers, one of whom had been caught selling drugs.

Matveyev hit one soldier "several times in the face" and "used violence" against the other, the Russian investigative committee's military department said in a statement.

"Vladivostok garrison military tribunal has sentenced Matveyev to four years," it said. Matveyev was also stripped of his rank and ordered to pay a total of 25,000 rubles ($840) to the two victims. He pleaded not guilty.

The lengthy jail sentence appeared to be an unusually harsh punishment for violence towards soldiers, which is notoriously common in the Russian army.

Matveyev's defence slammed the court proceedings as unfair Friday and said they planned to appeal.

"The court based its decision on witnesses called by the prosecution, and viewed the defence witnesses critically," Matveyev's lawyer Margarita Lyudenko said in televised comments.

Several officers in the army and the interior ministry have posted whistleblowing videos about corruption in the ranks in recent years.

The first to do so, police major Alexei Dymovsky from the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk, has also been fired from his job after he posted a video in 2009 alleging rampant corruption in his force.

© 2011 AFP

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