World News

Russia court denies bail to inmate "dying of AIDS"

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to release Vasily Alexanian, a jailed oil executive who has AIDS and says he will die in prison because prosecutors are deliberately denying him life-saving treatment.

Russia has already snubbed three requests from the European Court of Human Rights that Alexanian be moved to a hospital. The case is politically charged because he used to work for Yukos, an oil firm whose bosses were jailed after falling foul of the Kremlin.

Alexanian, whose testimony was delayed when he suffered a coughing fit, told the Supreme Court prosecutors had tried to blackmail him into giving false testimony against fellow Yukos bosses by withholding drugs he needs to stay alive.

Prosecutors did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. Last month they denied mistreating Alexanian, saying he had been offered adequate medical treatment in jail but had refused it. They accused him of trying to delay his trial.

The Supreme Court judges rejected a request from Alexanian’s lawyers to free him on bail. They explained the refusal by saying his trial was about to start so they did not have the authority to let him out.

Alexanian says he is nearly blind and has a constant fever and suspected tuberculosis. Appearing in court on a video link from his Moscow prison, he spoke hoarsely, had difficulty standing and at times appeared close to tears.

“I consider there is no legal basis for continuing my detention in my current condition,” he told the court. “There is only grounds for continuing this if you want to kill me behind bars. There can be no other motive.”

Rights group Amnesty International last week appealed to Russia to provide Alexanian with adequate treatment. He has a brother who works as a translator in the Reuters Moscow office.

Writing by Christian Lowe; editing by Andrew Roche