Parents Of Antigay Ultranationalist Who Died In Russian Jail Allege Foul Play

The parents of a prominent antigay ultranationalist whose death in custody last month was ruled a suicide have alleged that their son was killed or driven to suicide and vowed to file a police complaint in the case.

Thirty-six-year-old Maksim Martsinkevich -- a leader of the neo-Nazi group Format 18 who was known as Tesak (Machete) -- was found dead in a solitary-confinement cell in the west-central Russian city of Chelyabinsk on September 16 and his body transported to Moscow.

His parents were quoted by Kommersant Daily on October 2 as saying the morgue in Moscow refused to allow independent forensics experts to see the body before burial but that it might show traces of violence.

His lawyers rejected an Investigative Committee finding that it was suicide, saying their client had never been suicidal.

Martsinkevich's parents said an independent expert said postmortem photos and videos did not point to suicide.

Martsinkevich's father has said two of his son's toenails were missing and there was a possible indication he had been administered an injection.

Officials hinted he may have been driven to suicide by a confession in connection with an ethnically charged killing in the mid-2000s for which Martsinkevich faced a possible life sentence.

Martsinkevich had since said in prison that he had abandoned his neo-Nazi views.

In addition to his Format 18 activities, Martsinkevich founded a homophobic group called Occupy Pedophilia whose aim was to "cure" homosexuals.

Russian authorities opened an investigation against him after several videos showing Martsinkevich and his followers humiliating and beating gays circulated on the Internet in 2013.

Martsinkevich fled to Cuba but authorities there arrested him for a visa violation in January 2014 and repatriated him to Russia.

In late December 2018, a court in Moscow found Martsikevich guilty of robbery and hooliganism and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

Before that, Martsinkevich had been convicted three times on extremism charges.

Kremlin critics have said the government used Martsinkevich's group to counter opposition protests.

With reporting by Kommersant