Political Prisoner Sergey Mokhnatkin Recounts Abuse at “Auschwitz” Prison Colony

August 3, 2017

In a letter penned from his prison cell, human rights activist Sergey Mokhnatkin has described shocking treatment including violence, hereditary isolation and neglect of serious health issues.  Despite receiving a spinal injury after being beaten by prison guards, Mokhnatkin has been denied access to necessary medical treatment. His condition is deteriorating and he is reaching out for support.   

In April 2015, Sergey Mokhnatkin was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer at an opposition rally. In fact, this is Mokhnatkin’s second term in prison under similar charges. The second sentence was recently extended for his alleged efforts to ‘disorganize the work of the colony’.

The charge of ‘disorganization’ was brought against Mokhnatkin when in 2016 he refused to be escorted to a pre-trial detention centre.  He was subsequently beaten by prison guards in his cell so seriously that he received a number of injuries to his spine, making life “unbearable” at the Arkhangelsk correctional colony IK-21 in northern Russia, where he is routinely forced to spend prolonged periods of time in complete isolation.

His complaints and requests to receive medical attention have been met with little more than indifference. After numerous hunger strikes he was eventually transferred to the Arkhangelsk prison hospital, a place which Mokhnatkin describes in his letter as “the local Auschwitz”, whose commanding officer, Colonel Tretyakov, told him that “it is easier for me to bury you than to treat you.”

Mokhnatkin’s condition has deteriorated, having just come to the end of a 33 day hunger strike, the last 3 days of which were spent without water. He has been moved to a ‘close confinement zone’ in which phone calls and access to lawyers is forbidden, and only an hour a day is given for access to books and a pen and paper.  Here is an extract from his letter, in which he is calling for help to draw attention to the abuses:

“It [IK-21] is the Arkhangelsk Region’s cruelest colony. Its officers send you to punitive confinement for every minor fault. No explanations are offered. Five minutes, and you end up in the isolation cell. It’s cold in there, and no water is available. You are not allowed to lie down during the day, and you can never attract the guard’s attention however long you knock on the door. And they have a rule that you can’t read and write, except from 2 pm to 3:30 pm. You have a choice between your book, or a newspaper or pen and letters – it’s a rush to write a reply. You can’t submit an application to the prosecutor or any other organization.”

Today, Russia has more political prisoners than the late Soviet period.  Over the past few years we have witnessed numerous instances of innocent people receiving real prison sentences for as little as reposting material on social media.  The politicised Russian judicial machine is a difficult beast to fight, but Open Russia’s Human Rights team are working ceaselessly to provide both informational and material support to victims of political repression and their families, who are often left without a breadwinner.

Open Russia’s Human Rights team are working ceaselessly to provide both informational and material support to victims of political repression and their families, who are often left without a breadwinner.  The team operates exclusively on the basis of donations, so if you’d like to get involved, you can make a donation here.

Sergey Mokhnatkin is 63 years old and is a journalist and human rights activist.  In 2010 he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for supposedly using violence against a police officer during an opposition rally in Moscow.  He was subsequently released by pardon from President Dmitry Medvedev in 2012.

In April 2015 he was again sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for assaulting a police officer at a separate opposition rally in 2013.  He remains in prison until this day under deteriorating circumstances.

You can show your support and voice your concerns for Sergey Mokhnatkin’s situation by writing to the Arkhangelsk Correctional Colony (IK-21) at the following address:

Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN)
Onezhskaya street, 22

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