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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Strasbourg Ruling Backs Trepashkin

MTDemonstrators holding signs Thursday on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad. One calls Trepashkin the "conscience of the FSB."
The European Court of Human Rights on Thursday ruled that Russia violated the human rights of former Federal Security Services officer Mikhail Trepashkin during his 2003 detention, saying it "amounted to degrading treatment."

The Strasbourg-based court ordered Russia to pay Trepashkin 3,000 euros ($4,150) in compensation, ruling that he had been abused while being held from October to December 2003 in a dark, 6.6-square-meter cell with no access to physical exercise.

"Moreover, the applicant suffered from bronchial asthma, which would certainly have intensified the negative affects," the seven-judge panel said. "The fact that the applicant's detention was unlawful only exacerbated his mental anguish."

Thursday's ruling was the first in three complaints filed to the court by Trepashkin, who is serving out a four-year sentence in a Sverdlovsk region prison after being convicted in 2004 of divulging state secrets and illegal possession of ammunition.

Trepashkin says the FSB fabricated the charges against him because it was displeased with his critical investigation into the 1999 apartment bombings on Ulitsa Guryanova and Kashirskoye Shosse in Moscow and the 2002 Dubrovka theater hostage-taking.

Trepashkin had a theory that the FSB could have had a hand both in the apartment bombings, which were part of the reason why then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered federal forces back into Chechnya in 1999, a move that sent his popularity ratings sky-high.

Trepashkin's two pending complaints in Strasbourg charge that Russia has violated his right to a fair trial and his right to medical care, his lawyer, Yelena Lipster, said Thursday.

Lipster called Thursday's ruling a "good decision" and said it could give hope to other prisoners for improvement in the conditions of their incarceration. She noted, however, that similar rulings by the court on conditions in Russian prisons had done little so far to improve the situation.

Svetlana Gannushkina, of the human rights watchdog Memorial, called the ruling disappointing.

"The virtual torture of Trepashkin was appraised at just 3,000 euros," Gannushkina said. "This is small money for the state. Russia will pay it easily, but incarceration conditions won't change and tortures will continue."

But Lipster said proving that Trepashkin's rights had been violated was the goal.

Russians file more cases in Strasbourg than people in any other Council of Europe member country, after exhausting their options in Russian courts.

President Vladimir Putin said in February that some of the court's decisions regarding Russia were politically motivated.

Trepashkin said in a letter released in December that authorities had put him in a cell contaminated with poisonous chemicals and threatened to kill him after his arrest.