Mikhail Khodorkovsky has initiated a hunger strike in support of his former Yukos colleague Vasily Alexanyan, who is currently being unlawfully held in pre-trial detention and denied life-saving medical treatment despite three separate orders from the European Court on Human Rights. Khodorkovsky’s speech on the hunger strike can be read here in Russian, and below are reports from Associated Press and Reuters. A statement and more information is forthcoming immediately. UPDATE: New reports from Bloomberg and Interfax.
From the Associated Press:
Russia’s Khodorkovsky on Hunger StrikeMOSCOW (AP) — Imprisoned Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky launched a hunger strike Wednesday to protest authorities’ refusal to give his jailed ex-lawyer AIDS medication.Khodorkovsky accused officials of trying to extract incriminating, false confessions from the former lawyer, Vasily Aleksanian, and denying him AIDS treatment until he cooperates.Aleksanian, who attended preliminary hearings Wednesday in his own trial on charges of embezzlement, money-laundering and tax evasion, has said authorities have refused him essential medicines.He also accused authorities of deliberately putting him in conditions that exacerbated his illness after he refused to sign false confessions against Khodorkovsky.Russia’s Supreme Court last week rejected Aleksanian’s plea for transferral to a civilian hospital.Khodorkovsky, in a letter posted on his supporters’ Web site Wednesday, said Aleksanian’s plight left him no choice but to launch a hunger strike.”I was put before an impossible moral choice: Confess to the crimes I never committed to save his life but break lives of others listed as my “accomplices,” or defend my rights … and become the cause of possible death of my lawyer Aleksanian,” Khodorkovsky wrote in a letter to Russia’s chief prosecutor.”I was long thinking about it and I can’t make a choice. I’m forced to step outside the procedural frames and inform you about the start of my hunger strike,” he said in the letter, which he handed to authorities Tuesday.Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Yuri Schmidt, said on Ekho Moskvy radio that Khodorkovsky was refusing to take both food and liquids.Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, was arrested in 2003 on fraud and tax evasion charges that critics called Kremlin revenge for his criticism and apparent political ambitions. He was convicted in 2005 and sentenced to eight years in prison, and his Yukos oil company was eventually transferred to state hands.
Khodorkovsky on hunger strike over ill colleagueWed Jan 30, 2008 5:58am ESTBy Conor SweeneyMOSCOW, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Jailed Russian oil boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky has gone on a hunger strike in solidarity with an imprisoned colleague who has been denied treatment for AIDS, his lawyer said on Wednesday.Russia’s Supreme Court has refused to release Vasily Alexanian, another jailed executive from Khodorkovsky’s YUKOS oil firm who has AIDS and says he will die in prison because prosecutors are deliberately denying him life-saving treatment.”He has started a hunger strike,” Khodorkovsky’s lawyer, Robert Amsterdam, told Reuters on Wednesday.Amstersdam criticised Western governments for not speaking out against the treatment of Alexanian and said Russian prosecutors were “flouting not only international law, but the norms of morality”.Jailed for tax evasion and other crimes in a case seen as the Kremlin’s vendetta for his political ambitions, Khodorkovksy made a vast fortune following the Soviet Union’s collapse. He is serving a 9-year term in a Siberian prison camp.”Khodorkovsky doesn’t do things very much halfway. I would say an action like this is pretty serious,” said Amsterdam.Alexanian, a former YUKOS vice-president, has AIDS and says he will die in prison because prosecutors are deliberately denying him life-saving treatment.Russia has ignored requests from the European Court of Human Rights that Alexanian be moved to a hospital from jail, where he is being held on pre-trial detention. His case has also been championed by London-based human rights campaigners Amnesty International.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 earlier this month, he spoke hoarsely, had difficulty standing and at times appeared close to tears.He has a brother who works as a translator in the Reuters Moscow office. (Reporting by Conor Sweeney)