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Police Urged to Hand Over Drunk Tanks to Doctors

A senior prosecutor called for control of holding cells for drunks to be handed over from the police to health authorities Thursday, a day after a Tomsk man died from a brutal police beating in a holding cell.

"The police should just have to deliver the drunks and maintain order at the cells. The rest should be done by medical professionals, like everywhere else in the civilized world," First Deputy Prosecutor Alexander Buksman said at a meeting of the Russian Association of Jurists.

The Health and Social Development Ministry is "being obstinate and digging their heels in, not wanting to take over the sobriety cells," he said.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, who was also in attendance, backed the proposal, saying it was time to have the holding cells report to someone other than police officers.

"We're not specialists. Deliver them? We'll deliver them. Maintain order? We'll do it. But sobering people up from alcoholic intoxication should be done by specialists," Nurgaliyev said.

Nurgaliyev has previously said the cells should be eliminated as part of the Interior Ministry and reformed as rehabilitation centers for alcoholics.

The proposal to hand over the holding cells for drunks could be spurred forward by the killing of Tomsk journalist Konstantin Popov, 47, who died from injuries sustained earlier this month when a policeman beat him in a holding cell and shot him in the genital area. The policeman, Alexander Mitayev, told investigators that he was "stressed out" because he had families with two different women and three young children. Mitayev, 26, has been charged with assault and abuse of office and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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