The captain of ship “Temeteron”, Vladimir Tekuchev, was arrested in Libya in June 2016. The Russian sailor spent three years in the Libyan prison, of which two years – without lodging of charges. The day before a press conference in Moscow, human rights activists accused the Government of National Accord of torture and kidnapping, demanding the creation of an international tribunal for these crimes. The reporter *** talked with Vladimir about the details of the three-year imprisonment and the fate of other prisoners of the Libyan prison “Mitiga”.
– Vladimir, three years ago the crew of your vessel “Temeteron” was arrested near the territorial waters of Tripoli. How did the arrest go?
– I would call it not arrest, but capture. In case of arrest of a ship, a specific procedure must be carried out. In our case, it was like piracy: without establishing a contact, a group of armed people in high-speed boats approached our ship. They boarded, put the entire crew in line, put everyone at gunpoint as hostages. They searched everyone, took all our stuff: equipment, mobile phones, computers, money. After that, they put all crew members on boats and left for parts unknown, and forced me and my assistant to navigate the ship to the port of Tripoli. Only then did we realize that people with guns represented the Libyan government, and before that we thought we were victims of pirates. You need to understand that these events did not take place in the territory of Libya, those were neutral waters, where the Libyan government does not have the authority to detain anyone.
– Recently, at the press conference, you accused the Libyan government of kidnapping. Why do you consider your arrest a kidnapping?
– As I already said, during arrest a certain procedure must be followed. Firstly, we were kept in an unofficial prison at Mitiga Airport, which is controlled by bandit groups. Neither lawyers, nor diplomats, nor representatives of international organizations were allowed there. Therefore, it has nothing in common with a legal arrest procedure. Secondly, they demanded a ransom of one million US dollars for us. As I understand it, it is a kind of business for owners of private prisons. We were indeed captured by bandits. The peculiarity is that this prison is located in the territory controlled by the Government of Libya, it operates with the approval of the government, the activities of these bandits are approved by the official authorities of Libya.
– It is known that human rights activists in Russia demanded to create an international tribunal for Libya. Russia accuses the Libyan government of creating unbearable conditions for prisoners in Libyan prisons. What conditions were you held under?
– I want everyone to understand: in the prison where we were held, neither international nor local laws were in force. In the event of an independent proceeding, the actions of the bandits who own this and other prisons will be classified as torture. And the conditions of detention is not the most important thing. We were held in cells of approximately 11-12 square meters, there were 27 people in one cell. People slept on bare concrete, and sometimes even standing.
There were also solitary cells. The cells are about 1.2 by 1.3 meters. Therefore, it is impossible for a normal person to lie there. One has to sit or sleep rolling himself into a ball. You can hear constant screaming. We called the police, called the government so that someone would come. No one ever comes except for the staff for dishing.
But the main problem is not the conditions, but torturing. I, then, talked with people, with Libyans. They showed me signs of torture on arms and legs. Many of them have become handicapped during their imprisonment.
– Have you actually seen how prisoners were tortured?
– In prison, there is a person named Munir who has sadistic inclinations: he simply takes his gun and shoots at limbs, aiming at bones, so that later the prison doctor cut off a person’s leg or arm. I saw people whose muscle was cut out. I saw a man whom the guard jumped on in heavy army boots and broke his back. The man was taken to the hospital, he was fornicated in the opposite direction. I have not seen this person anymore.
The torture that took place at Mitiga was mostly atrocious. They simply took a person, handcuffed him, and hung from the ceiling. Then some guard of 100 kg in weight jumped on him. Person’s ligaments got torn. Then they beat him with pipes for 10-15 minutes. Screams were heard through the whole prison. I met people who have been beaten with clubs. I saw how people were beaten with clubs in legs, a person simply crawled into the cell because his legs no longer functioned.
– Why didn’t you report torture before being released?
– For civilized countries this may seem impossible, but we really had no connection with the outside world. Lawyers are really not allowed to prisoners. I am free now just because my disappearance was noticed in Russia, my fellow countrymen made great efforts for our release. Things are even worse with the Libyans. Many of them simply get grabbed on a street, for no reason, without any explanation. They can be held there for a year or year and a half, and their relatives simply do not know where they are. And all this is approved by top leaders.
– How many prisoners are in prison? Is it mostly Libyan citizens?
– The prison has more than 3,000 prisoners. Many of them are foreigners, there are also citizens of European countries. A French-Italian was sitting with me. He was there for a total of 4 years. I came to Libya as a businessman to specify the line of the business. He just wanted to develop a business. He got kidnapped. He was held in a basement of some person. Then somehow the police found out about his whereabouts and took him away. And imprisoned him for another three years, but this time in prison. In total, he spent 4 years, while being beaten, and caught tuberculosis there. I saw how he was treated. And on April 1 he was released, after a total of 4 years of imprisonment.