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Public Probe to Be Made of Dec 31 Arrests of Activists in Moscow

Boris Nemtsov in Radio Free Europe StudioMOSCOW. Jan 18 (Interfax) - The Public Council at the Moscow city police authority has set up a commission to investigate arrests of opposition activists in Moscow on December 31, Council Chair Svetlana Mironyuk said on Tuesday.
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Several opposition politicians were arrested in connection with December 31 protest rallies, one of which had no permission from the authorities, and spent up to 15 days in detention as a penalty.

They declared their arrests illegitimate, but police claimed the arrests had been a reaction to allegedly aggressive behavior toward police officers and that this was supported by eyewitness accounts and video tapes.

Setting up the commission had been requested by "some of the members of the Public Council and human rights activists," said Mironyuk, who is editor of Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. "A statement to this effect has been sent out to all interested parties."

The head of the commission is Pavel Gusev, deputy chairman of the Public Council and editor of Moscow daily Moskovsky Komsomolets.

The commission members are:

Viktor Biryukov, head of the press and public relations service of the city police authority;

Mikhail Komissar, general director of the Interfax news agency;

Alexander Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia;

Valery Borshchev, chief executive of the Social Partnership foundation;

Alexei Venediktov, editor of the Ekho Moskvy (Echo of Moscow) radio;

Vladimir Vershkov, first deputy head of the Alexander Griboyedov Institute of International Law and Economics;

Vladimir Vigilyansky, head of the press service of the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church;

Alexander Zverev, a member of the board of directors of Public Relations Development Company;

Dmitry Muratov, editor of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper;

Vladimir Filippov, head of the Friendship of Peoples University;

Olga Kostina, a member of the Russian Public Chamber.

Mironyuk also said the Public Council would inspect all the detention centers in Moscow and keep monitoring them.

"Among other things, members of the Public Council are planning to check the way those institutions receive their logistic supplies and whether it conforms to regulations, and will work on more effective public control over detention centers," she said.

Mironyuk said the Public Council would hold its next regular meeting at one of Moscow's police stations. "Such a meeting has long been planned," she added.

Earlier, Novaya Gazeta editor Muratov, in a letter to Moscow police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev, asked to resign from the public council.

"The fact that participants in the authorized rally (on Triumfalnaya Square) on December 31 are under arrest has become a disgrace for the country. It makes me very sad that Moscow police were involved in organizing this disgrace," Muratov said in his letter.

"Special services used Moscow police as a cloak for brutal and dirty political reprisals," he said. "Your officers grin and shrug their shoulders - they can understand everything. But, Vladimir Alexandrovich, 'if one understands everything one can justify anything' (Goethe). One cannot justify false testimony under Clause 9 of the main overall civil code - 'Thou shalt not bear false witness.'"

"Order a service investigation into the arrests of members of the Russian opposition. Include several members of the Public Council in such a commission. Find out how the 'special operation,' which has led to prisoners of conscience appearing in Russia, was prepared," Muratov said.

"I am sure that many of the members of the Public Council will support this request. The findings must be published. For some reason, I hope that the report of the commission would contain something new for you as well," he said.

Ekho Moskvy editor Venediktov said Muratov had "raised the right kind of questions."

"If there are suspicions that police have given false evidence - as part of any case, not just this one, - a commission must be set up and an investigation must be carried out, something that should primarily be in the interest of the senior echelon of the (city police authority) itself. Because, if a policeman gives false evidence, he can get away with anything. For this reason, I support (Muratov)'s) proposal and appeal," Venediktov said.

Later, Venediktov told Interfax that one of the politicians who had been arrested, Boris Nemtsov, "is willing to give (the planned commission) evidence on how he was being arrested on Triumfalnaya Square on December 31 and in what conditions he was at the (detention center) at the Tverskoye Interior Department (police station)."

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