RUSSIA

Justice is dogged for former Yukos executive

Thirty-five year old Vasiliy Aleksanyan is a former executive for the Russian oil giant Yukos, which the Russian government has been persecuting for the past few years. Aleksanyan also served as acting Vice President for 6 days before he was arrested. Like his previous boss the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he was accused of tax evasion and money laundering. For the past two years he has been awaiting trial in prison. Aleksanyan is dying of AIDS, but the authorities refuse to allow him to be hospitalised. He says that the prosecution offered to free him if he testified against former heads of Yukos. Well-known antagonists of Putin's Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev are already serving prison sentences. Read more...

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Thirty-five year old Vasiliy Aleksanyan is a former executive for the Russian oil giant Yukos, which the Russian government has been persecuting for the past few years. Aleksanyan also served as acting Vice President for 6 days before he was arrested. Like his previous boss the oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, he was accused of tax evasion and money laundering. For the past two years he has been awaiting trial in prison. Aleksanyan is dying of AIDS, but the authorities refuse to allow him to be hospitalised. He says that the prosecution offered to free him if he testified against former heads of Yukos. Well-known antagonists of Putin's Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev are already serving prison sentences.

Despite a decision by the European Court of Human Rights to hospitalise Vasiliy Aleksanyan in November last year, the Russian Supreme Court declared on 22 January that he would remain in prison. According to his lawyer, Aleksanyan could soon be facing a death sentence if he doesn't receive aid.

“They tried to bribe me, but I refused”

Aleksanyan gave his account via video-link during his appeal last week (22 January).

Excerpts: On 28 December 2006 I was taken to the Prosecutor General's office on the pretext of familiarising myself with certain products. I tried to find out why I was still being held in prison; why I was dying there. Investigator Salavat Karimov offered to do a deal with me.

He told me: "those in charge at the Prosecutor General's office understand that you must have treatment, even abroad, perhaps, not in Russia, and that your condition is severe. We need your testimony because we cannot confirm the accusations we are making against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. If you bear witness then we shall let you go." He then proposed how we could organise the deal. He used various ways to convince me to do this, showing me the title page of testimonies that had supposedly been provided by other people who had agreed to help the investigators.

However, I cannot commit perjury or incriminate innocent people. So I refused. And no matter how awful my condition is today, I cannot buy back my life in such a way now, so help me God."

Images and full script available at khodorkovsky.info

Alexanyan’s video-link plea

Clip taken from RenTV, a private Russian channel

Comment from Vassiliy Aleksanyan’s lawyer

Our observer for Russia, Ostap Karmodi, spoke to Aleksanyan's lawyer Elena Lvova:

I've never heard of another instance when Russia refused to comply by the European Court's ruling, and I'm surprised that the authorities have done so now - they must have really good reasons. If this continues, it could cost Russia its place in the European Council. The European Court has warned Russia that they are going to prosecute the country for the deteriorating health [of Vassily Aleksanyan] and - if it happens, God forbid - for his death. They are going to charge Russia with refusing to ensure one of its citizens' the right to life and for torture. I don't know why they keep doing what they do. It's unreasonable.

Aleksanyan is obviously in a bad state, he's had fever of 39 C for two months now and is blind. It drains his strength and yet they make him read case papers. Nevertheless the prison doctors signed a document stating that Aleksanyan's condition is good enough to do so. And what does this mean? It means that he has to sit up for six to eight hours on a backless stool that is screwed to the floor, in a room without ventilation. Why do I think it happened? Because if they sent him to a hospital, they would have to stop the proceedings."

Document proving Aleksanyan's consent to treatment

Aleksanyan's prosecutors insist that he refuses to be treated for his condition. But here, the contract that Aleksanyan signed in agreement to receiving medicine for HIV, scanned and uploaded by our Observer in Moscow, Vera Vassilieva.