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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Face Probe After Suspect Dies in Custody

Authorities in Ryazan have reopened an investigation into the death of a man who died of injuries sustained while in police custody after being detained for improper garbage disposal, a human rights activist said Wednesday.

Vyacheslav Romanov, a resident of the Ryazan region village of Laskovo, dumped some garbage near the fence of his female neighbor on May 8, sparking a heated verbal exchange between the two, said Natalya Briker, a spokeswoman for the Ryazan branch of the human rights watchdog Memorial.

Romanov, 41, was subsequently detained, and a day later local police informed his wife that he had died in custody.

On May 10, she received a death certificate citing the cause of death as internal bleeding and a ruptured liver, Briker and the widow's lawyer, Gennady Davydovsky, said in separate telephone interviews.

District prosecutors opened an investigation into Romanov's death, but investigators failed to identify any suspects and tried to suspend the probe, said Briker and Davydovsky, who accused prosecutors of dragging their feet in the investigation.

Citing the "impossibility of determining a suspect," the regional branch of the Investigative Committee formally suspended the investigation, Davydovsky said.

But in a letter dated Nov. 9, the committee said the investigation had been reopened, he said.

Sergei Gabov, who was taken to the police precinct in the nearby village of Polyansky together with Romanov after being detained for public drunkenness, returned to Laskovo on May 9 with physical injuries indicating that he had been beaten, Briker said. Gabov told his sister that he and Romanov were put in separate rooms but that on his way out he saw police officers beating Romanov, Briker and Davydovsky said.

The officer who detained Romanov told investigators that Romanov's injuries could have been incurred during the bumpy ride from Laskovo to Polyansky, Davydovsky said.

The Interior Ministry notified Romanov's widow in August that a number of police officers had been disciplined for violating unspecified internal rules and that Romanov should not have been detained, said Briker, of Memorial.

There was no mention, however, of whether Romanov might have been beaten to death, she said.

Regional Investigative Committee spokeswoman Inna Kartashova said by telephone that she was unaware of the case and that she could not comment on it.

Dmitry Melnikov, spokesman Interior Ministry's regional branch, said he was aware of the case but declined to comment.

Memorial and other nongovernmental organizations have documented dozens of cases of police beating confessions out of suspects in order to boost their reported number of solved crimes.

In December 2005, police officers in the Moscow region city of Ozyorsk beat up a doctor after he refused to withdraw his recommendation that a suspect they had assaulted be hospitalized, Kommersant reported.