Ordinary citizens have the right to defend themselves against police officers who launch illegal attacks on them, Russia's interior minister said Thursday.
Rashid Nurgaliyev was speaking at a meeting with students in the Moscow Region just days after police officers in both the capital and St. Petersburg were detained on suspicion of beating innocent people to death.
"If the citizen is not a criminal who is being detained and has not broken any laws...if he is being attacked, self-defense is applicable here," the minster said in response to a question on rising police crime.
Nurgaliyev, who recently reminded police chiefs that their officers should use their weapons against criminals and not innocent citizens, said rogue police were "criminals in uniform, who need to be isolated and jailed."
Russian lawyers and rights activists warned against following the minister's advice, pointing out that the country's Criminal Code stipulates harsh penalties for attacks on police officers.
Lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said a police officer's word would always be believed, and that "criminals in uniform" could simply say "I was on duty...he committed a crime, I detained him and he resisted."
But the chief spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry, Police Maj. Gen. Valery Gribakin said citizens "are entitled to resist a police officer if his behavior is improper."
Nurgaliyev also reiterated his intention to fight police corruption regardless of rank and position.
However, a police officer from the southern Russian city of Novorossiisk was fired earlier this month after posting a video on the web asking Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to launch a nationwide corruption probe.
The reputation of the Russian police has taken a beating in recent years, with frequent cases of police brutality. In the last 18 months, police in Russia have been convicted or charged with burning a suspect to death, shooting sprees and rape.
SHCHYOLKOVO (Moscow Region), November 26 (RIA Novosti)