Torture and Beatings of Key Witness in Khodorkovsky Trial

Below is an exclusive translation of a breaking story from the Spanish press. First published in El Pais, and also covered by several other outlets, the story concerns Antonio Valdés-García, a Spanish-Russian dual citizen who says he was beaten and tortured by Russian investigators to force him to provide false testimony against Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It should be illustrative of the weakness of the state’s case that they have to nearly murder Vasily Alexanyan, and now, allegedly beat this individual to within an inch of his life to produce false testimony against Khodorkovsky. It is a story that speaks for itself.


Spaniard accuses Russian police and prosecutors of forcing his false testimony against Khodorkovsky

Antonio Valdés-García, 38 years old, a Spanish-Russian dual citizen, is accusing representatives of the Russian government of pressuring, beating, and torturing him.

PILAR BONET | Moscow 23/04/2009

Antonio Valdés-García, 38 years old, of Spanish and Russian dual nationality, has become a potential and valuable witness for the Kremlin in its case against Mikhail Khodorkovsky to close ranks around the fallen former president of Yukos. From Madrid, where he is located after having mysteriously fled from the police and courts of Moscow, Valdés-García has accused the Russian state of pressuring, beating, and torturing him with the goal of obliging him to give false testimony against the oil magnate.

These accusations, sent to the Russian procuracy by certified mail onApril 7, were read this Thursday by Vladimir Krasnov, lawyer toKhodorkovsky, in one of the hearings currently in process against thismagnate and his partner Platon Lebedev. These businessmen, sentenced toprison in 2005, have rejected the crimes they are being tried for as”incomprehensible.”

Born in Moscow as the son to a boy of the Spanish Civil War,Valdés-García ran Fargoil, a business corporation affiliated with Yukosand based in Mordovia – a tax haven created in the Boris Yeltsin eraand abolished by Vladimir Putin. Prosecutors consider him a suspect ofparticipating in schemes to steal earnings from the oil company.

In his seven-page missive, Valdés-García accuses Victor Kozlovsky, acivil servant in the Ministry of the Interior, and various prosecutorsordering him to be put under physical and psychological violence, andhave him threatened in order to extract a false testimony in the summerof 2005. Valdés-García abandoned Russia for Madrid in 2003, the year inwhich the campaign of harassment and overthrow against Yukos wasculminating with the arrests of its principals. However, according tohim, from Spain he had telephone conversations with Russianauthorities, who assured him that he would be converted from adefendant into a witness, if he would return and answer theprosecutor’s questions.

“Following long negotiations,” Valdés-García voluntarily returned toRussia in June 2005 to “re-establish his good name and reputation.” Butupon returning, he says, three investigators “exercised pressure overme in order to obligate me to admit guilt in the theft of money.”
“They deceived me,” he complains. “In reality in turns out that theinvestigation only wanted me to take the blame.” Valdés-García was putunder “State protection,” a form of witness custody which haspractically become a prison regime in the region of Moscow. “All weeklong I was under control by armed guards and was almost totallydeprived of freedom of movement,” he says, and denounces “systemicpsychological pressure” and “direct threats” on behalf of theinvestigators and officials from the Ministry of the Interior.

“It was clear that the investigatory organs only wanted to use meagainst the principals of the Yukos company,” he indicated. At thebeginning of August, the “aggressive behavior” of Kozlovsky caused him”real fear.” According to him, Kozlovsky “became enraged” and shoutedat him that “he was a brutish ingrate.” Then, he says, he lostconsciousness as a consequence of a “strong blow to the face.” “Becauseof the grave cerebral trauma it is very difficult for me to establishthe circumstances of the beatings and torture,” he writes. Among thesymptoms he presented were concussion, broken bones and jaw, bruises,wounds and several lost teeth. On August 19, 2005, Valdés-García saysthat he tried to withdraw in writing from “State protection,” as healready feared that “once again they would torture me or simply killme.”

Kozlovsky proposed to him “that he declare in writing that what causedall the injuries was an accidental fall from a window.” Valdés-Garcíaadmits that had signed the proposed document, because he had “no otherway out.” “Out of fear for my life I didn’t go public with the coercionused to give testimony nor anything else about the torture,” heexplains. Yesterday the Prosecutor Valeri Lajtin said that it wasinadmissible for Khodorkovsky’s lawyers to cite Valdés-García in thetrial and protested that he had caused his own injuries to himself in”an alcoholic stupor,” and that there is a search and arrest warrantagainst him.

In December 2006 prosecutors requested 11-12 years of severeimprisonment for Valdés-García, and then he was able to escape onJanuary 2, 2007, according to the Russian media, slipping past an armedguard of two policemen despite having to move along on crutches.Valdés-García did not reveal the circumstances of his escape, for whichhe may have had received help from his brother – with dual citizenshiplike him – and eventually a fake Spanish passport. Neither of these twohypotheses have been confirmed.

He thought that “they would leave me alone,” he indicated. “I tried toforget about it as though everything that happened to me in Russia werea nightmare.” But in January 2009, a case opened up against him in hisabsence. “The people who coerced and tortured me didn’t want to forgetabout my existence,” he said, and declared himself willing to testifyin Spain before representatives of the Russian authorities.