Moscow: The Kremlin's top rights advisor on Thursday demanded access to the prime suspect in the killing of opposition activist Boris Nemtsov, following allegations he was likely tortured into confessing.
Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Kremlin's human rights council, said at a press conference that he was waiting for permission from investigators to visit the suspect, former Chechen police officer Zaur Dadayev tomorrow.
Nemtsov, 55, an ex-deputy prime minister who became an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, was shot four times in the back near the Kremlin on February 27 in the most shocking assassination of an opposition leader during Putin's 15 years in power.
Dadayev allegedly signed a confession and was charged with the murder on Sunday alongside Anzor Gubashev, who worked for a private security company. The two men and three other suspects were remanded in custody.
But yesterday a member of the Kremlin's rights council, Andrei Babushkin, said after a jail visit to Dadayev that the suspect now insists he is innocent, and may have confessed under torture.
"We cannot confirm that he was tortured as we are not investigators, but we did find numerous wounds on his body," Babushkin told AFP.
Those allegations sparked a fierce reaction from Russia's powerful Investigative Committee, which is probing the shooting. Both Babushkin and a journalist who spoke to Dadayev were questioned by investigators over possible interference in a criminal case.
Amnesty International said Babushkin's claims raised "very serious questions about the fairness of these proceedings and fuels speculation about a possible state-sanctioned cover-up."
Nemtsov's murder sent shock waves through the opposition, which accuses Putin of steadily suppressing dissent. Regime opponents also allege the Kremlin was behind the murder of one of its last outspoken critics.
Investigators have said they were looking into the possibility that the former deputy prime minister was killed over his support of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which published images of the Prophet Mohammed and was attacked in January.
But close Nemtsov allies in Russia's marginalised opposition dismissed that claim as "absurd."
Authorities have also said they are probing the possibility that Nemtsov was murdered for criticising Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict, or as part of a plot to destabilise the country.