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Russia's Ministry of Justice appoints official disgraced in torture case to senior position in Saratov

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Pavel Melnik, former deputy prosecutor of Russia’s Saratov region, who was dismissed after the publication of a torture video in a prison hospital, has been appointed head of the regional department of the Ministry of Justice, according to an announcement on the ministry's website.

Melnik assumed his new position on February 2, replacing former Saratov Ministry of Justice head Maksim Kolesnikov.

Last fall, the media project made public videos, documents and photographs showing cases of mass torture in Russian penitentiaries. It turned out that prisoners at OTB-1, a prison in the Saratov region, were tortured, raped and beaten by prison guards who extorted money and information.

The evidence was then passed over to human rights activists by former convict Sergei Saveliev, who worked with the prison’s computers on behalf of the OTB-1 administration.

After the information was made public, the Saratov Region Investigative Committee opened a criminal case on “violent acts of a sexual nature committed by a group of persons by prior conspiracy.” The head of the Saratov Directorate of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service resigned. On November 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed the head of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, Alexander Kalashnikov.

Pavel Gatsenko, the former head of the OTB-1 prison, and the head of the hospital security service Sergei Maltsev were named as defendants in the sexual violence case.

Saveliev, who fled to France, was prosecuted for disclosure of classified information and put on a wanted list. However, on November 10, prosecutors in Saratov stopped the investigation and the charges were dropped.

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