MOSCOW – A jailed Russian opposition activist who claims he was kidnapped and tortured will remain in custody and may be sent to Siberia as part of a 15-year-old investigation into the theft of 500 fur hats.
Moscow's Basmanny district court ruled Wednesday that Leonid Razvozzhayev should be held until April, granting the request of investigators who have charged him with plotting mass riots aimed at overthrowing the government. The investigators also said they needed to send Razvozzhayev to Siberia for questioning in the 1997 armed robbery.
Razvozzhayev's case became a cause celebre for the opposition after he claimed he was kidnapped in Ukraine in October, tortured for two days and forced to sign a false confession, which he later retracted. Prosecutors say he turned himself in and deny the allegations of torture.
After Razvozzhayev retracted his confession, prosecutors filed charges against him in other cases.
In one case, he is accused of leading a group brandishing hunting rifles and pistols that burst into a businessman's apartment, taped him to a chair, beat him and left with a video camera and 500 fur hats in the eastern Siberian city of Angarsk in December 1997.
Defense lawyer Dmitry Agranovsky said the charges were a ruse aimed at sending Razvozzhayev to Siberia, where it would be more difficult to guarantee his safety. As evidence, he cited an anonymous letter Razvozzhayev received in jail that contained veiled threats about what awaited him in Siberia. The threats echoed what Razvozzhayev was told while being tortured in a basement, the lawyer said.
During Wednesday's hearing, Razvozzhayev claimed that a man in the courtroom was part of the team that tortured him, but the judge took no action. Novaya Gazeta, an opposition newspaper, reported the man was one of the investigators who searched Razvozzhayev's apartment in October.
Razvozzhayev and two other opposition leftist activists were charged with organizing mass riots after a documentary-style film on a pro-Kremlin television station purported to show hidden camera footage of them meeting with an official from the former Soviet republic of Georgia last summer. They are heard discussing preparations for nationwide disturbances with money raised by a disgraced Russian banker in exile in London. The activists and the official, Givi Targamadze, deny having met and say the film is a fabrication.
Investigators said this week they have proof Targamadze financed the activists and paid for others to attend seminars in Lithuania on how to organize "color revolutions" of the sort that toppled governments in other post-Soviet countries.
Razvozzhayev is also charged with leaving Russia illegally on his brother's passport. Investigators have not said how or on whose passport he returned to Russia, a trip Razvozzhayev says he made under duress with masked men in an unmarked van.