Russian prison officers jailed for ordering rapes

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Seven high-ranking Russian prison officers were jailed Friday for ordering rapes as punishments for prisoners in the north-western city of Saint Petersburg.

The prison officers were jailed for abuse of power with the use of violence, after they ordered prisoners to commit "violent acts of a sexual nature" on two prisoners, the regional investigative committee said in a statement.

Those sentenced included the former head of operations at the regional branch of the federal prison service, Vyacheslav Tippel, and his former deputy Rostislav Balobolko.

In January 2009, the prison officers illegally incarcerated a prisoner in a psychiatric ward without the necessary medical documents, in order to punish him for an escape attempt.

They put him in a cellar at the hospital, where they shaved off his body hair, injected him with an unknown substance and beat him with a wooden pole and coathangers, investigators said.

They then brought in two other prisoners and ordered them to sexually assault him.

Another officer, Yevgeny Petrov, was also found guilty of ordering the rape of another prisoner in the same psychiatric hospital in order to persuade him to cooperate with the administration.

Prosecutors had said that Petrov made a video recording and took photographs of the crime.

Tippel was jailed for seven years, while Balobolko was sentenced to six years and six months, and Petrov to six years. The other men were sentenced to four years. The officers were also ordered to pay compensation to the victims.

The city's Smolny district court acquitted the prisoners who committed the rapes under orders, saying they were under psychological pressure and feared for their lives and health.

Russian prisons are overcrowded and known for the brutality of their staff. In a recent high-profile case, lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail from untreated illnesses in 2009 while in pre-trial detention for tax evasion.

© 2011 AFP

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