Die Welt: Putin Abuses Legal System in Struggle Against Rival

The following is an exclusive translation of an important article from the German newspaper Die Welt about the case of Vasily Alexanyan (Aleksanyan, Alexanian). The original version can be read on our German-language blog here. Putin abuses justice system in struggle against rival Ex-manager Aleksanian under extreme pressure to testify against former oil magnate Khodorkovsky By Manfred Quiring – DIE WELT, February 7, 2008 Moscow – Vassily Aleksanian is severely ill, he is suffering from lymph node cancer and is HIV positive. A Moscow court on Wednesday had no doubts about this either, after all a medical expert opinion was available. The doctors pointed to the urgent need for treatment. Nonetheless, the judge decided that Aleksanian must remain in remand. Putin%201441.jpg

With its decision, the Moscow Simonowski Court yesterday once again complied with a motion of the Procuracy General. The defence had called for the release of their client Aleksanian so that he could go to hospital for inpatient treatment. The Prosecutor’s Office, however, put the alleged interest of the law above the health of the accused. He must remain in the remand prison, the prosecution maintained, because he could otherwise hinder the progress of the trial. The court agreed, suspended the trial, and ordered Aleksanian’s further treatment of his cancer and HIV infection from behind bars.The accused, shocked by the decision, turned to the observing journalists: “Have you understood what has happened here? They are leaving me in the remand prison. I can’t be treated there at all.”Russia is a country of “legal nihilism,” Dmitry Medvedev, presumably the country’s next president, recently explained. No other European county can boast such “contempt” for the law, avowed the trained jurist. The Aleksanian case may be seen as evidence for this sober assessment, even if Medvedev most probably did not have it in mind.Aleksanian was vice president of the Yukos oil corporation, whose former head, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, as well as his partner Platon Lebedev, is serving a lengthy prison sentence in the region of Chita. Both are awaiting another arraignment. Russian media suspect that Igor Sechin, the influential vice head of the presidential administration, is behind the breaking up of the corporation and the unrelenting prosecution of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev. Sechin is also chairman of the supervisory board of the state oil corporation Rosneft, which acquired the key shares of Yukos under dodgy circumstances.Sechin, but also Kremlin boss Putin, who, according to reports, felt himself personally attacked by Khodorkovsky, are interested in the longest possible camp stay for the ex-Yukos boss. For another conviction of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, Aleksanian’s testimony is necessary. Aleksanian, who was arrested in April 2006, is supposed to have stolen property, laundered money, and dodged taxes.These allegations, however, failed to move him to testify against his former partner. Examining Magistrate Salavat Karimow, who in the opinion of Platon Lebedev belongs to the representatives of the prosecution controlled by the “Sechin Group,” changed his tune. According to the ailing Aleksanian, the investigator, who has since retired, proposed a deal in 2006: Release and treatment, even abroad, for incriminating testimony “that is suitable to the leadership.” In April of last year, examining magistrate Khatynov repeated this monstrous offer; meanwhile – according to Aleksanian – he is being refused treatment of his diseases. That is pure “torture,” the remand prisoner complained. Russian civil-rights activists point out that even in Stalin’s gulag ill people were entitled to medical treatment.Since January 29, Khodorkovsky has been on a hunger strike out of solidarity; he is drinking only water. Lebedev has encouraged the ailing Aleksanian to make whatever statements the authorities want in order to save his life. But Aleksanian has refused, remarking that he could not buy his life with false testimony. The Aleksanian case is an example of how the Prosecutor’s Office uses its position of power in the interest of the authorities. The courts are being degraded to vicarious agents of “higher interests.”When Medvedev complains of the regrettable disregard of right and law by citizens, then the sources lie above all in the fact that his electorate knows precisely how the justice system works. Its standing has been deeply discredited by what is called telephone jurisprudence, the carrying out of instructions “from above.” And those who lack contacts try it with bribery – successfully as a rule. In a recent study, the Russian Institute of Sociology published its finding that victory in a civil or arbitral court case was to be had for 10 percent of the amount in litigation. Transparency International estimates that around U.S.$ 210 million flows annually into the pockets of corrupt judges.