Bloomberg News

AIDS-Stricken Ex-Yukos Official Denied Bail in Russia

February 01, 2008

A Russian court denied bail to Vasily Aleskanian, a former executive of OAO Yukos Oil Co., who is dying of AIDS in a Moscow prison, his lawyer said.

The court today rejected a plea from Aleksanian's defense team to release him on bail or move him to a specialized medical facility, Drew Holiner, a lawyer for the former Yukos vice president, said by telephone from London. Aleksanian's trial on charges of money laundering and embezzlement will begin Feb. 5, the court said.

``Instead of making sure he lives, they want to get a conviction before he dies,'' Holiner said. ``I just think it's repulsive.''

A woman who answered the phone at Moscow's Simonovsky court, which is handling the case, said no one was available to comment. Maria Malygina, a spokeswoman for the Moscow City Court, declined to comment.

Aleksanian, detained soon after being appointed to the Yukos job in 2006, has accused Russian authorities of offering to release him only if he testifies against Yukos' former chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly demanded that Russia provide Aleksanian with necessary medical care. The 36-year-old was diagnosed with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, a few months after his detention in April 2006, and is close to death, Holiner said. Aleksanian is nearly blind and has contracted tuberculosis in prison, Holiner said.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year sentence and could face an additional 22 1/2 years in jail on new money-laundering and embezzlement charges.

Hunger Strike

Khodorkovsky began a hunger strike to protest Aleksanian's detention on Jan. 29. In an open letter to Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Khodorkovsky said he faced a moral dilemma: whether to admit to false charges to ``save a person's life,'' or to become the possible cause of Aleksanian's death.

Khodorkovsky's lawyer, Yuri Schmidt, said Khodorkovsky agreed to begin drinking water after being briefed in detail about Aleksanian's condition by prison authorities. ``He hasn't had food or water for three days,'' Schmidt said by phone today. ``He agreed to begin drinking water.''

Aleksanian is in ``satisfactory health,'' the Russian Prosecutor General's Office said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office, who asked not to be identified, said he had no further comment when reached by phone today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Walters in Moscow at gwalters1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Daniel Tilles at dtilles@bloomberg.net.


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