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Russia journalist dies after being tortured in prison

[JURIST] A Russian journalist died [RUJ press release, in Russian] in a Siberian hospital on Wednesday from injuries he received during a police beating nearly two weeks ago, according to local investigators. Konstantin Popov, an economics writer for a Russian newspaper, was arrested for drunkenness on January 4 and taken to prison [Moscow Times report], where police officer Alexei Mitayev allegedly tortured and sexually assaulted him. Popov suffered severe internal injuries and spent nearly two weeks in a coma before his death. Mitayev, who will undergo a psychiatric evaluation next month, was charged [official press release, in Russian] with abuse of power and intentional infliction of grievous bodily harm, and he faces up to 10 years in prison. Popov's editor-in-chief expressed concern over police brutality in the country, but said that Popov's murder was probably not related to his journalism [LAT report].

The UN Human Rights Committee [official website] has criticized Russia [JURIST report] for unsolved killings of journalists and human rights activists and violence against citizens. In November, the chairwoman of Russia's Council for Promoting Civil and Human Rights [official website] said that Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky had been murdered in prison [JURIST report]. Earlier that month, a suspect was arrested for the double murder [JURIST reports] of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. Markelov had represented famed journalist Anna Politskovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] who was killed [JURIST report] in 2006. At least 11 journalists have been murdered [CPJ backgrounder] in Russia since 2005, according to the US Committee to Protect Journalists [official website].

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