MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is treating an ailing oil executive with HIV/AIDS “like an animal” by handcuffing him to a bed in a civilian hospital as he awaits trial, his lawyer said on Monday.
Vasily Alexanian, who is also going blind and has cancer, was last week transferred to hospital from prison after almost two years in detention awaiting trial for fraud and tax evasion, charges he denies.
But conditions for Alexanian at the hospital are now worse than they were in prison, said his lawyer, Drew Holiner.
The Russian prison service did not return calls on Monday for comment on the criticisms.
“It’s like they’re trying to punish him for speaking out,” said Holiner. “By chaining him to a bed they’re treating him like an animal, it’s inhumane. He needs to have a shower every day, he isn’t.
“The 24-hour manacle is hardly ever removed and Mr. Alexanian, who can walk, is forced to undertake all personal hygiene in bed,” Holiner said.
Prosecutors deny any mistreatment and have accused Alexanian of refusing to accept the medical treatment offered to him in prison in a ploy to delay his trial.
Holiner said that Alexanian, 36, has received some anti-retroviral drugs, but added that this was the only improvement, flouting demands from the European Court of Human Rights that the prisoner be moved to a specialist AIDS clinic.
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.
“It’s completely unconscionable what they’re doing, rather than improve the situation, as required by the European Court, they’ve put him in worse conditions, apart from starting the medical treatment,” Holiner said.
Alexanian, a former vice-president of the now-defunct Yukos oil company, has accused the authorities of deliberately denying him adequate treatment to force him into giving evidence against jailed former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky.
Khodorkovsky, who may face trial on a new set of charges this year, went on hunger strike in solidarity with Alexanian, calling it off after he was transferred to hospital.
One of Alexanian’s brothers works as a translator in the Reuters Moscow bureau.