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(Bishkek) – Kyrgyzauthorities should immediately, thoroughly, and impartially investigate allegations that police illegally detained and ill-treated three people in connection with an armed robbery. Two of the men were hospitalized following alleged treatment amounting to torture. The authorities should also investigate allegations that the police sought to extort money from relatives of two of the men in exchange for their release.

“The police appear to have grossly stepped outside the law in this case,” said Mihra Rittmann, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Torture is never justified, no matter the crime.”

Authorities should also investigate threatening text messages sent on November 19 to Nazgul Suiunbaeva and Dinara Turdumatova, lawyers representing two of the men in Osh, pressuring them to abandon the case.

Police apprehended Davlet Marazykov, 29, on the night of November 9, 2013, immediately following an armed robbery of US$4.5 million in cash from a businessman from the town of Kara-Suu at Osh city airport. Local media reported that four armed men shot at the businessman’s vehicle, then attacked him and took bags filled with cash. Suiunbaeva, Marazykov’s lawyer, said the businessman’s vehicle hit Marazykov during the episode, breaking his leg. A bag filled with US$1.1 million was recovered from him, the media reports said.

When the police arrived, the officers immediately began to beat Marazykov, including on his broken leg, the lawyer said. When the ambulance came, the police accompanied Marazykov to a hospital but did not allow medical workers to treat him. Instead, they continued to beat him, apparently to coerce him to identify others who participated in the robbery, Marazykov’s lawyer said. The lawyer also told Human Rights Watch that it was only after Marazykov lost consciousness that the officers transferred him to a different hospital, where his leg was operated on.

The lawyer said Marazykov told her that on November 13, the day after his operation, police officers removed him from the hospital for questioning at the police station, where they beat him on the head and on his broken leg for about two hours to force him to answer their questions. Marazykov’s lawyer told Human Rights Watch that after police took him back to the hospital, doctors found he had suffered trauma to his head.

Suiunbaeva also told Human Rights Watch that police had prevented her from meeting with Marazykov on November 11 and 12. She was allowed to speak with him on November 13 after she complained to the Osh city ombudsman, Kyrgyzstan human rights activists, and others, but only in a police investigator’s presence, violating Marazykov’s right under Kyrgyz law to a private meeting.

Suiunbaeva filed a complaint that day about her client’s allegations of torture at the Osh city prosecutor’s office. Authorities have not yet opened a criminal investigation.

She said that police have been pressuring the doctor at the hospital where Marazykov is being treated to release him into their custody. She said the doctor refused, saying that Marazykov was still in recovery.

Kylym Shamy, a human rights group closely following the case, informed Human Rights Watch that two other men from Marazykov’s home town were also ill-treated and tortured on suspicion of involvement in the armed robbery. Relatives of the men, Mirbek Teshebaev, 32, and Farkhat Yulbasarov, 25, told Human Rights Watch that neither was in Osh the day of the crime.

In a statement concerning Teshebaev, but not naming him, Kylym Shamy reported that six plainclothes officers detained Teshebaev on November 13 outside his home near Jalalabad, a town in southern Kyrgyzstan. The police officers introduced themselves to Teshebaev’s father as friends of his son to lure Teshebaev out of the house. They detained him but did not tell his family why or where they were taking him.

Teshebaev told Kylym Shamy that the officers transferred him to Osh, where they held him overnight in an unidentified location and beat him and covered his head with a plastic bag to interfere with his breathing to coerce him to confess to involvement in the robbery. Teshebaev has alleged that the officers used his phone to call his brother, who lives in Bishkek, to demand US$5,000 for Teshebaev’s release.

When the plainclothes officers did not receive the money, they took Teshebaev to Bishkek on November 14 to locate his brother. A relative of Teshebaev told Human Rights Watch that on their way to Bishkek from Osh by car, the officers at one point made Teshebaev stand naked in freezing temperatures. When they reached the city, the officers held Teshebaev in a private apartment, where they continued to beat him all over his body and head, Kylym Shamy reported.

Separately, Yulbasarov’s family told Human Rights Watch that on November 14, plainclothes police officers detained Yulbasarov outside his home in Bishkek and held him in another apartment in Bishkek. The officers kept Yulbasarov handcuffed and pressured him to confess. His lawyer in Bishkek, Dinara Medetova, said they also beat him.

On November 15, the officers located Teshebaev’s brother and forcibly took him and Teshebaev to the same apartment where Yulbasarov was being held. Kylym Shamy reported that the police pressed Teshebaev’s brother to pay for Teshebaev’s release. While his brother was there, Teshebaev tried to hang himself with his shoelaces, Kylym Shamy reported. He was hospitalized and is currently in critical but stable condition.

Yulbasarov’s family told Human Rights Watch that Osh police officers also tried to extort US$5,000 to release him. But after Teshebaev’s attempted suicide, the officers transferred Yulbasarov to the Osh City police station. On November 18, a court approved his detention for 15 days under investigation for the robbery. On November 16, Yulbasarov’s lawyer in Osh filed a complaint with the Osh city prosecutor’s office concerning his illegal detention but authorities have not yet opened a criminal investigation.

Teshebaev and Yulbasarov contend they had nothing to do with the robbery. Marazykov’s lawyer says Marazykov does not deny his involvement.

On November 18, Teshebaev’s lawyer filed a complaint with the Bishkek city prosecutor’s office concerning Yulbasarov’s and Teshebaev’s allegations of illegal detention and torture. The authorities have not yet opened criminal investigations.

The authorities should immediately open a full and impartial criminal investigation into the allegations of torture and ill-treatment and illegal detention of all three men, Human Rights Watch said. The investigation should include forensic medical examinations of Marazykov and Teshebaev, both of whom remain hospitalized.

The authorities should also investigate the allegations of attempted extortion. Teshebaev’s brother has filed a complaint with the prosecutor general’s office.

Torture and ill-treatment persist as widespread problems in Kyrgyzstan and impunity for torture and ill-treatment is pervasive, despite some steps authorities have taken to tackle the problem of torture, Human Rights Watch said.

As recently as November 13, after a review of its most recent reporton the subject to the United Nations Committee Against Torture, the government promised to fix the problem. In his concluding remarks to the UN committee, Deputy Prosecutor General Ulanbek Khaldarov said the government recognizes that torture is a problem in Kyrgyzstan and “is unwavering in the fight against this negative phenomenon.”

“If the government is serious that it is ‘unwavering in its fight’ against torture, it should demonstrate that by ensuring justice for Marazykov, Yulbasarov, and Teshebaev,” Rittmann said. “The prosecutor general’s office should ensure that every police officer involved in their torture and ill-treatment is held to account.”

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