Abusing a Dying Man's Legal Rights

No, he has not been sentenced to life in prison. In fact, he has not even been convicted of anything. He has AIDS and is not receiving proper treatment while awaiting trial in a detention facility on fraud and tax evasion charges.

Prosecutors and judges have deemed it appropriate to keep this gravely ill man behind bars, and one prosecutor even found nothing wrong with disclosing Vasily Aleksanyan's condition, blatantly violating his right to privacy.

Aleksanyan, a former Yukos executive, insists that he has been deliberately denied treatment as punishment for refusing to testify against his former bosses, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev. Prosecutors claim that Aleksanyan refused treatment, while his lawyer, Yelena Lvova, says he gave written consent for therapy in July. Aleksanyan never received any treatment and has not had a medical examination since Dec. 30, Lvova said last week

Another of his lawyers, Drew Holnier, said Aleksanyan "could die any day."

In an unusual step, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights issued three requests for Aleksanyan, 36, to be transferred to a special hospital -- requests that have been ignored by Russia, a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Instead, prosecutors have repeatedly -- and successfully -- petitioned courts to keep Aleksanyan in custody, despite the fact that under Russian law seriously ill suspects should not be kept behind bars during pre-trial detention.

It is certainly possible that someone dying of AIDS could flee or try to obstruct the investigation. But if Aleksanyan and his lawyers are telling the truth, there is no justification for denying him the treatment he needs.

Why are suspects and prisoners with medical conditions far less serious than Aleksanyan's allowed treatment in specialized clinics under the watchful eye of police guards while Aleksanyan is not?

Perhaps Aleksanyan is, indeed, a political prisoner, and such prisoners should expect no mercy from the executive or judicial branches of power. This happens all too often when individuals run afoul of high-ranking officials.