Victoria Poupko -The case of Zubayraev:killing in a Russian “Medical” Prison

In a Russian prison, a 5-year prison term quickly turned into a death sentence.

 Here are a few facts from the life of Zubayraev  Zubayr Isaevich, of Chechen origin, was born in 1978 in the village of TolstoyYurt,GroznyRegion,ChechenRepublic. Zubayr is the only son of his parents; the other 5 children are girls. His father died in an auto accident when he was 14, and Zubayr remains the only one who can support his family; now he has also a wife and two small children,  one of whom is disabled.

Zubayr had never taken part in hostilities; on the contrary, he hosted at the family’s home civilians who were fleeing from  the war and their destroyed towns and villages. Zubayr’s family took part in efforts for peace, as well. It turned out that this was enough for Zubayraev to fall under the suspicion of the Kadyrov (father and then son) regime, and Zubayr appeared on a “wanted” list.  Zubayr’s mother and sisters persuaded him to flee fromChechnya.

 In 2006, Zubayr with his wife Madina managed to come toAustria, being afraid of persecutions inChechnya; they have relatives there. A son was born to them inAustria. After a year, when they were about to get their asylum status, Zubayr suddenly learned that his mother had gotten seriously ill (oncology). Desperate, and misled by the propaganda about peace and coming prosperity in Chechnya, and especially about the safety for those who return from abroad, the Zubayraevs returned home. Unfortunately, such propaganda was (and is) nothing but another trap for the few Chechens who return home. Most who returned were killed or detained. Those who survived detention were often permanently maimed by the tortures they endured.

 On the 23rd of February, less than a month after returning home, Zubayr disappeared. For three months the family was searching for him. They finally found him in a Police station basement inGrozny. During the only one allowed visit of his sister, Malika, he told her that he was tortured and forced to plead guilty to crimes he hadn’t committed.

In August 2007, Zubayr Zubayraev was sentenced to 5 years in a strict regime colony by theGroznySuperior Court. The sentence was based on the Article 317 of the Criminal Law of Russian Federation— attempt on the life of a Law Enforcement Unit officer; and on the Article 222 — unlawful possession and storage of weapons. In fact, no evidence of the possession of a weapon was presented in his case, or at the trial.

Nevertheless, the case was done. He was sent to serve his sentence at the colony YaR- 154/25, in the town ofFrolovo, Volgograd Region of theRussian Federation. [A colony  is a kind of a prison or a detention facility. They exist mostly inSiberiaand also in central or south Russia, similar to Stalin-era labor camps, but in many cases with stricter  regimes —V.P.]

From the first days in the Colony men in masks regularly “visited” Zubayr in his prison cell, especially at nights, and beat him on his head with plastic bottles filled with liquid (in order to avoid leaving traces). He often fell unconscious during these beatings. They poured water on him to restore him, and then beat him again. They also used gummy sticks, butts of machine guns and, of course, their boots. Besides that, they tortured him with electroshock (the wire was fixed to his 5-th fingers). In addition, they injected him with an unknown substance; after this his condition sharply deteriorated. The prison personnel were especially angry and cruel when Zubayr tried to say a Muslim prayer (Namaz). They tried to force him to give up his religion. When he refused, he was pulled out of the cell to the basement and brutally beaten; he was put back in the cell covered in blood. Even the inmates (non-Chechens) were shocked, but were afraid to openly say a word in support of him. They told their own relatives secretly during prison visits (Zubayr was deprived from having visitors).  Often, although Zubayr could barely walk by himself, the guards forced him to walk with bare feet outdoors in freezing winter, dressed in nothing but a thin robe. They kept him on the snow until he fainted. The Colony’s officers threatened to strangle him if he complained. But he did. When the Colony’s stuff learned about his complaints, the guards threw him into the basement (torture chambers with beds) and hit his head by the bed’s metal armature; then they kept him without food for several days in a row. Only his professional sports training – the fact that he was in good physical shape before entering prison – allowed him to survive

As a result of heavy beating on the head Zubayr had a serious trauma to his brain. He fainted often. His internal organs were damaged, and he had acute pain in his chest,  kidneys and liver. His feet were broken, he could not walk well, or even serve himself without outside help. So, in February 2007 Zubayr was hospitalized, and then transferred to a Medical Colony for the sick and disabled (LIU-15), with a long list of diagnoses of posttraumatic brain injuries and damage to his internal organs.

In LIU-15, his sisters were allowed to visit him for the first time. They were shocked by what they saw: “Zubayr looked like a shade. We didn’t recognize him. Nothing remained of the tall and handsome man. His eyes were closed. We called him by name. With his fingers he pulled open his eyelids. Blood leaked from the corners of his eyes. Then he recognized us. He couldn’t walk by himself. He needed to be supported while walking, or even carried. He lost half his former weight. ”

 Personnel of medical facility LIU-15 forced him to sign a paper that he had no complaints about the staff of the previous colony, where he was sodomized.  The methods of forcing were the same: beating and tortures. They threatened him that he would not come out of there alive, and told him to give up any hope.

Zubayr’s sisters again made a complaint against deputy director of LIU-15, V.D. Deripasko, who beat Zubayr most brutally. On the basis of Zubayr’s serious body injuries, a criminal lawsuit was finally opened. But when the administration of this “medical” Colony learned about it, they threatened him the same way or even worse than they had in the first colony: ‘How does a Chechen dare to make complaints against our colleagues? You have little time left alive, we can arrange your death easily. ” As a “proof” of these words, three days prior the scheduled visit of his relatives on June 17, 2008, Zubayr was called to the first floor to see his lawyer. He was told he had 5 minutes to speak with him. However, when overcoming pain, Zubayr managed to get to the 1st floor, he saw instead of his lawyer a few officers of the administration. He couldn’t understand what was happening until they pulled him into a special room and beat him heavily, calling him ‘terrorist’ . Then they threw him into the basement cell. One of those who had beaten him was director (Chief Manager) of the colony A.I.Mansvetov. He hit him with his boot in the face and broke his nose. Mentioned above Deputy director V.D. Deripasko and two other officers beat him with their feet, having said that he complained too much and he would be punished for it. After several hours Zubayr was unconscious. When he came to himself, he found himself in a puddle of blood. He couldn’t move. All his body was one huge wound, he experienced unbearable pain.  He remained like that on the concrete floor all day and night. The next day, medical personnel brought him a mattress. Three days he was without any food. Extremely desperate by all this tormenting, Zubayr attempted to commit suicide: to hang himself on his T-shirt. But he was too weak to succeed.

 After the complaints of a group of human rights activists, Zubayraev was secretly transferred (probably in retaliation) to a Siberian colony, the town of Minusinsk, Krasnoyarsky Region. He was relegated to the most cruel and strict regime part of it, called the Prison: which is a prison within the Colony. The official grounds were fully fabricated. His lawyer, Mr. M. Khadiso, brought a full and detailed proof of the fabrication, and several times addressed it to the Local and Federal office of prosecutors; but he received no answer.

 In the Prison, Zubayrev was introduced into another circle of the Hell, even more unlawful and monstrous than those he’d already experienced. Aside from being subjected to continued severe beatings by personnel of the Prison, Zubayraev was practically  deprived of any legal help: after each visit by a lawyer or a human rights public (paralegal) defender, he was subjected to more severe beating (in retaliation). This was followed ritualistically. During his 2 years in the Prison, Zubayraev became fully paralyzed; his spinal cord was broken, he cannot walk, or sit,  he can only lie prone. In spite of having unbearable pain in his back, he is deprived even of (very necessary) pain medications. Under these conditions Zubayr attempted for the second time to commit suicide,- with one hand, which doesn’t function properly,- he cut his wrist, and spent 2 days in a coma, until his mother and sisters came from 4000-mile-away Chechnya, having spent all the money they had in their household, to either cure or bury him. Then the medical personnel of the Prison took the first necessary steps to save him, and his sisters spent three days helping to cure his wounds, and to give him moral support. After the visit they said they were crying in their pillows all night. This was in August 2011.

Below are quotes from the report of Mr. V.A. Shaklein ((Head of the Civic Controlling Commission and of the Interregional Center of Human Rights, the city ofEkaterinburg), who visited Zubayraev onSeptember 26-28,  2011:

  1. Zubayraev was brought to our meeting on the back of an inmate from another cell. Zubayraev tried to step on one leg with the help of crutches, dragging another leg as it was paralyzed, but failed. 
  2. Zubayr stayed laying during our meeting because he was unable to sit due to acute pain. His back is put into a corset for already a year. (When I visited Zubayraev in May 2009, when he was in Ekaterinburg pretrial facility, he came to the prison office on his feet.)
  3. Because he is unable to sit and walk, Zubayraev cannot go for strolls, nor is he able to perform personal hygiene.  
  4. He denies the allegations of the Colony’s chief, a colonel A.V. Misyura,  that he refuses medical treatment. In fact, he testifies that the prison doctors are torturing him no less severely than the prison personnel; in particular, he calls a certain name “Michalych” as a nickname of one of the tormentors in the medical unit. Moreover, he said he has been tortured by some of the personnel of theKrasnoyarskhospital where he was transferred onJuly 7, 2011. He said he has been brutally beaten in the hospital’s basement. He also said that the medical staff told him that he ‘wouldn’t live up to the time of his release, for he would be beaten to death the next time.’ That’s the reason for his refusal to be hospitalized into any prison medical facility ofKrasnoyarskregion. He stated his refusal to be treated in the regional prison hospitals at the meeting with me and with Alexey Babiy, head of the Krasnoyarsk Civic Controlling commission,
  5. During our visit on Sept. 26 – 28, we found a big gematoma (bruise), 10 to 12 centimeters length, at the second segment of his left arm, which wasn’t reported in the medical file signed by V.A. Goryachkin, the deputy head of the prison medical facility. According to Zubayraev’s words, this injury, as well as injures on his neck and upper back, were made by the prison personnel on Sept. 20, 2011 after his lawyer, M. Khadisov, had left Minusinsk (Sept. 19).”

 Zubayraev is now on the edge of death. Many say that his death will be a release from his hell on Earth. But we can’t accept it. We still try to save his life. For two years we have been addressing the case to many Russian institutions controlling correctional facilities; also, we wrote to Procurators and President Medvedev. We didn’t have any appropriate answer, and the situation didn’t change.

The last minute before the sending this letter (Fri., Nov 18)we got E-mail from Minusinsk lawyer Mr. O.  I. Bazuev that Zubayraev was forcibly, against his will, transported toKtasnoyarskTuberculosisHospital, where in summer 2011 the guards and personnel seriously damaged (broke) his spinal cord with their beatings, after which he remained fully paralyzed. This is where they promised to beat him to death the next time he came.

Until now, nobody has been allowed to see him.

The Tel/fax of the Hospital (KTB-1) is: + 7 391 221-10-04 

The address is: KTB-1 (UP 288/18), LIU- Tuberculosis Hospital of Krasnoyarskiy Kray;Maerchak Street, No.48;Krasnoyarsk:Russia; Tel/Fax:.+7 (391) 221-10-04


Victoria Poupko,

Director of ‘Anna Politkovskaya Memorial Fund’

Tel:  001 617 671-4695

Fax: 001 617 779 –8488

Address;190 Harvard Street, Suite 405

Brookline, MA02446; USA






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  1. sposibo vam za sostradanie.

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