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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Abuse Victim Awarded $300,000

A European court ruling obligating Russia to pay $300,000 to a victim of brutal police abuse highlights rampant rights violations by law enforcement officers, human rights groups said Monday.

The lawsuit was lodged by Alexei Mikheyev, 29, who in 1998 was subjected to torture with electric shock by police officers in Nizhny Novgorod. To escape the torture, Mikheyev jumped out the window of a police station, which led to spine injuries and left him paralyzed.

The court, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled Thursday that Mikheyev had been ill-treated while in police custody and should be compensated. It said he had been denied the right to an effective legal remedy in Russia.

As a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia is obliged to accept the court's ruling.

Incidents of torture "by police exist in Russia and they are rampant," Natalya Taubina, head of Public Verdict, a rights groups monitoring police abuse, said at a news conference.

Mikheyev, a former police officer himself, was detained after a young woman went missing after he had given her a ride in his car. Police officers tortured Mikheyev with electric shock, forcing him to confess to having raped and killed the woman. The torture, however, continued with policemen wanting to extract information from Mikheyev on where he had hidden the woman's body, prompting the man to jump out of the window. The woman surfaced several days later, unhurt.

Mikheyev attempted to defend his rights in Russian courts, but said authorities had hindered his attempts, with prosecutors repeatedly postponing and closing the criminal case. The investigation into the torture lasted seven years until two officers were convicted last year of torturing Mikheyev and sentenced to four years in prison. Mikheyev objected to the fact that their superiors walked away unpunished.

"Even after he survived that torture, ... for seven years prosecutors tortured him, the Constitution and common sense," said Igor Kalyapin, head of the Committee Against Torture rights group, which handled Mikheyev's case.

Pavel Laptev, Russia's representative at the European Court, said the court ruling should be heeded by Russian law enforcement bodies and court officials.

"Of course, it is unpleasant and painful that it happened," Laptev said, RIA-Novosti reported. "In order to prevent such violations in the future, all [law enforcement] officers who work with people must abide by very tough disciplinary rules," he said.

Mikheyev said his attempts to seek justice would not have been possible without the help of human rights groups, and lamented the recent passing of a Kremlin-backed law that severely restricts their operation. "The Russian Federation is not interested in having rights groups whose work leads to decisions by the European Court," Mikheyev said, referring to his case. "After such groups are liquidated, I don't know who one could turn to for help."

Kalyapin said rights groups felt increasing pressure from authorities. He linked his organization's handling of Mikheyev's case with a recent spy scandal. Federal Security Service officials said last week they had uncovered British intelligence agents working under diplomatic cover, and one who had provided money in his official capacity as a diplomat to a group of NGOs, including Kalyapin's organization.