[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] Thursday ruled against Russia in the case of a former KGB agent who was detained under conditions that the court said "amounted to degrading treatment" [opinion; press release]. The ex-agent, Mikhail Trepashkin [advocacy website; Wikipedia profile], was arrested in 2003 on charges of illegally possessing a gun, days before he was supposed to testify in court about 1999 apartment building bombings in Russia. The bombings were later blamed on Chechen rebels. Prior to his trial, he was held for 25 days, despite a court ordering his release, without access to any form of outdoor yard or exercise space. He spent an additional 14 days in a "seriously overcrowded cell," which he shared with approximately 20 other inmates. The court found that detainees in the second cell "had eaten, kept foodstuffs and personal belongings, washed themselves and used the toilet in the same cell where they were living," in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], which prohibits degrading treatment of prisoners. The court fined Russia 3000 euros. It is unknown if Russia will appeal.
The gun charge against Trepashkin was eventually dropped, but he was convicted of divulging state secrets. Last year, Trepashkin warned that Russia had organized a hit squad to kill government critics, including former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was killed by poison in London last year. Trepashkin alleged that agents from the KGB's successor agency, the FSB [official website, in Russian], approached him and asked him assistance in killing Russian businessman Boris Berezovsky [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive]. Litvinenko was one of a number of Kremlin critics who believed the government was responsible for the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings which helped prompt the Second Chechen War [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Berezovsky is another well known critic of that war. AP has more.