Rights watchdog says Nemtsov murder suspects were likely tortured

New details have come to light about the investigation into the murder of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, including a report from a member of the Kremlin’s human rights council indicating that Russian authorities likely tortured suspects in the case.

Following a visit to Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison in which he spoke to three of the suspects, rights activist  Andrei Babushkin said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” at least two of the men were tortured, and that they reported being denied food, water and phone calls after their arrests.

Babushkin reported his findings in a March 11 summary of the visit posted on the website of the Council Under the President of the Russian Federation for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.

Russian authorities announced the arrest of two key suspects last Saturday, but Babushkin’s report indicates they were detained  Thursday.

On Sunday, when the two men were formally charged, a Moscow judge said that one of the two, former Chechen policeman Zaur Dadayev, had confessed his involvement in Nemtsov’s murder to authorities.

According to Babushkin, Dadayev had multiple visible injuries on his body, and said claimed he had only confessed to Nemtsov’s murder after being promised that if he did so, authorities would release Rustam Yusupov, a man who Dadayev said was detained at the same time as him.

“They said if I confess, they would let him out. I agreed. I thought that I would save him and they would take me to Moscow alive,” Dadayev said, according to the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, whose reporter accompanied Babushkin.

In response to Babushkin’s report, the Russian committee investigating Nemtov’s killing released a statement accusing Babushkin and fellow human rights council member Eve Merkacheva of hindering the investigation. The statement said the two would be called in for questioning.

Nemtsov, one of the most outspoken critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was gunned down in downtown Moscow on Feb. 27.

Earlier this week, Nemtsov’s daughter, Zhanna Nemtsova, told the BBC she believes Putin was “politically responsible” for her father’s death.

“Now we do not have any other figure so powerful… with so much expertise and experience to confront the officials,” she said.