Police Accused of Beating 5 Young Men for 5 Hours

Investigators have opened a criminal case into a group of police officers accused of brutally beating five young men for five hours at a Moscow police station in April, two officials said Thursday.

The case, a rare instance of police officers being investigated for suspected assault, was previously rejected by investigators and only opened after a human rights activist appealed to the Investigative Committee of the Preobrazhensky District Prosecutor's Office.

"The officers were ideologically driven. While beating the teens up, they used all kinds of nationalistic insults," said the rights activist, Lev Ponomaryov.

He said the police did not like their casual dress and haircuts.

The April 4 incident began when Vsevolod Ostapov was stopped by police officers for drinking a beer in public outside the Sokolniki metro station in northeast Moscow, according to complaints filed with the Prosecutor's Office, copies of which were obtained by The Moscow Times.

Four of Ostapov's acquaintances -- Kirill Karyazin, 25, Simon Ovcharenko, 18, Oleg Kolesnikov, 18, and Oleg Dobrazhansky, age unspecified -- came to his aid, and they all were taken to a police station, the complaints said. Boris Rashupkin, 17, a passerby, was also detained. Once in the station, the officers punched and kicked the detainees and assaulted them with stun guns and batons for five hours, the complaints said.

The five young men whose complaints are being investigated are represented by Yevgeny Chernousov, a lawyer hired by Ponomaryov. Ostapov is not among the group. If charged and convicted, the police officers face three to seven years in prison.

Police declined to comment, referring questions to the City Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutors did not answer a faxed request for comment Thursday.

Shortly after the incident, the police's internal affairs department ruled that the officers' conduct was legal because they had "attempted to prevent a mass fight," Vremya Novostei reported Thursday.

The police's internal safety department seconded the decision, saying the young men were detained for "disturbing the public order," the report said.

The case will also be heard by Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin, who has promised to deal with the accused police officers, Ponomaryov said.