Russia moves AIDS prisoner to hospital

A007699517.jpgMOSCOW – A jailed former oil executive gravely ill with HIV/AIDS was transferred to a specialist clinic on Friday, Russia’s prison service said, following an international campaign on his behalf.

A former vice-president of the now-defunct Yukos oil company, Vasily Alexanian, 36, says he is nearly blind, has cancer of the lymph nodes and suspected tuberculosis.

He has accused prosecutors of deliberately denying him adequate treatment to blackmail him into giving evidence against Yukos founder Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is in a Siberian jail and may face trial on a new set of charges this year.

Prosecutors deny mistreating him.

Alexanian’s case has been raised three times with the Russian authorities by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and rights group Amnesty International has also voiced concern.

“Following the recommendation of a consilium of medical specialists on Vasily Alexenian’s further treatment … the patient has been transferred to a specialist clinic,” the prisons service said in a statement.

Alexanian has said he will die unless he receives life-saving treatment only available outside prison. A Russian court this week refused to release him on bail.

One of Alexanian’s legal team said neither his lawyers nor family had been told where he was and they were very concerned about him.

“Vasily has legal rights and it is completely unacceptable to hold him incommunicado in a secret location,” Drew Holiner, who represents Alexanian in the European Court of Human Rights, said in a statement.

“Russia needs to realize that the world is watching and Vasily cannot be simply swept under the carpet.”

Alexanian is on trial on charges of fraud and tax evasion. Prosecutors have accused him of refusing to accept the medical treatment offered to him in prison in a ploy to delay his trial.

His supporters say he has been caught up in a witch-hunt against Khodorkovsky, who was imprisoned in what Kremlin critics say was a campaign to punish the tycoon for his political ambitions.

Late last month Khodorkovsky announced he was going on hunger strike to show solidarity with Alexanian.

One of Alexanian’s brothers works as a translator in the Reuters Moscow bureau.

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