Russia

Top Kremlin Foe Dies Of AIDS After Prison Ordeal, Raising Human Rights Questions

Vasily Aleksanyan is dead at 38. He used to be a lawyer and top executive of oil company Yukos, whose chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky is in jail since 2003. Aleksanyan had long battled with Russian authorities to be released from jail to be treated for AIDS.

File image shows Aleksanyan before a court appearance (Canvas TV)
File image shows Aleksanyan before a court appearance (Canvas TV)

Worldcrunch *NEWSBITES

MOSCOW - Vasily Aleksanyan, a former jailed executive of oil company Yukos, had long battled with Russian authorities to be released from jail to be able to get AIDS treatment. Now, at the age of 38, Aleksanyan has died at his Moscow home.

The former oil executive, who had full-blown AIDS, lymphoma and tuberculosis, was arrested in April 2006 on charges of embezzlement, money laundering and tax evasion. Similar charges had landed his boss, the billionaire Yukos chief-turned-dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in jail, where he has remain confined since 2003.

The European Court of Human Rights had urged three times that Aleksanyan be hospitalized, saying the Russian authorities "had not shown the necessary care, which caused him severe suffering." Nevertheless, he was kept in jail.

Aleksanyan was finally released on bail of $1.8 million in December 2008 when the statute of limitations expired on his case. Aleksanyan had been Yukos' top lawyer but quit the company after Khodorkovsky's arrest in 2003.

He returned in March 2006 as an executive vice-president to work on the company's bankruptcy proceedings before being arrested the following month.

Later that year, he learned he was HIV-positive and his lawyers said the authorities used his illness as a means to force him to testify against Khodorkovsky. He was allowed to leave the country and received treatment in Israel, but its benefits were short-lived. His lawyer, Yuri Shmidt, who also represents Khodorkovsky told Kommersant "I spoke with (him) three days ago, and Vasily's condition was very serious."

Human rights activists compare the case to that of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was arrested while investigating alleged fraud by government officials, and later died in prison.

"We were hoping until the last moment that the news of his death was not true," another Yukos lawyer said.

Read the full article in Russian by Nicolai Sergeyev

photo - Canvas TV

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Valentin Sprinchak/TASS via ZUMA
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