Russia’s penal system is once again at the center of a scandal after a Moscow headmaster died whilst on remand in a Stalin-era jail.
Andrei Kudoyarov, 48, who was being held on suspicion of accepting a $7,600 bribe to admit a child into his school, died on Saturday from acute heart failure in Moscow’s SIZO 3 remand center despite repeated requests for his release.
The father-of-two had denied the accusations against him. Supporters claim the money was financial aid for the school.
Kudoyarov was arrested in May and locked up in a Moscow pre-trial detention center, built at the height of the Stalinist terror in 1937 to accommodate prisoners before they were sent to labor camps.
Kudoyarov was reported to have been in good health before he complained of chest pains early on Saturday.
His lawyer, Alexander Manov, said Kudoyarov’s heart could not endure the psychological damage.
Detention is a “huge stress” for those “unfamiliar with the criminal world,” Marina Kannabikh, a member of Russia’s Public Chamber, told RIA Novosti.
“Corridors, walls and cells are always a catalyst for a chronic illness to worsen,” she said. “Those five months were extremely difficult for Andrei.”
Human Rights groups have questioned the need to detain Kudoyarov, arguing he had no intention to flee prosecution.
“Don’t believe those who say the arrest of Kudoyarov was evidence of the fight against corruption,” Sergei Aleksashenko, director for Macroeconomic Research at Moscow’s Higher School of Economics, wrote in the Vedomosti newspaper.
“You only need to look at our state bankers who fly on their own planes and travel on their own yachts and then come running to their superiors begging for hundreds of billions more from the budget to save their ever-sinking banks.”
“This penal system cannot be rebuilt because the people that are fit into it are filled with hatred for the citizens of our country,” Aleksashenko wrote.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said negligence charges had been brought against those who permitted Kudoyarov’s death.
Both SIZO 3 and Moscow’s central penal authorities declined to comment.
Kudoyarov’s death is the latest in a series of fatalities involving remand prisoners.
On Tuesday, another man held on remand died in a Moscow hospital. Oleg Golobokov, 46, was awaiting trial on charges of violating copyright. He had suffered from epilepsy and died after a fit.
There has been increased concern over prison conditions in Russia since the high-profile death in 2009 of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Magnitsky, who uncovered a massive tax scam allegedly involving dozens of senior Russian officials, died in police custody after the prison authorities refused to allow him medical care.