Former Yukos vice president Vasily Aleksanyan speaking from the defendantĺs cage in a Moscow court in 2008.
Human rights activists said former Yukos vice president Vasily Aleksanyan, who died this week of AIDS-related illnesses, would have lived longer if theáauthorities had not kept him ináprison foránearly three years onápolitically tainted charges.
Aleksanyan, who fought a protracted legal battle with the authorities before finally being freed on bail in 2009 to seek medical treatment, died at home Monday at the age of 39.
"It was practically a murder," rights champion Valery Borshchyov told Business FM radio on Tuesday. "He could have lived longer if he had not been kept in detention."
Rights veteran Lev Ponomaryov echoed those sentiments.
"Aleksanyan's death, no doubt, was hastened byáthe fact that he was kept ináprison foráa long time while he was seriously sick. He went blind ináprison," said Ponomaryov, Interfax reported. "We have a cruel system. Andápeople are cruel, not only theásystem."
He reiterated theábelief ofámany supporters ofáAleksanyan andáhis former boss, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, that theácharges ofáembezzlement andátax evasion against Aleksanyan amounted toáKremlin punishment foráKhodorkovsky's political andácommercial ambitions.
Harvard-trained Aleksanyan, who long served as Yukos' top lawyer, quit theácompany after Khodorkovsky's arrest iná2003 but returned ináMarch 2006 as anáexecutive vice president toáwork with Yukos' court-appointed bankruptcy manager, Eduard Rebgun. Aámonth later, he was arrested.
Aáfew months after his detention, Aleksanyan learned he was HIV-positive. He also began toálose eyesight ináhis one good eye. Theáother eye had been blind since aáchildhood accident.
Aleksanyan andáhis lawyers said theáauthorities used his illness as aábargaining chip, threatening toáwithhold treatment unless he agreed toátestify against Khodorkovsky andáhis jailed business partner Platon Lebedev.
The account is similar to the story of Hermitage Capital lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose supporters say he was pressured to testify against his clients before he died of untreated health problems in a Moscow prison in 2009.
The United States in July imposed travel restrictions on a blacklist of about 60 officials implicated in Magnitsky's death.
Novaya Gazeta on Tuesday released a blacklist of 31 state officials involved in the prosecution of Aleksanyan, including Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin.
Aleksanyan's AIDS only became public knowledge ináearly 2008 after Prosecutor Vladimir Khomutovsky controversially revealed it during aáSupreme Court hearing.
International pressure grew throughout theáyear toárelease Aleksanyan onábail foráhealth reasons. Ináaddition toáfull-blown AIDS andáfading eyesight, he suffered fromáliver cancer, lymphoma andátuberculosis.
InáDecember 2008, theáMoscow City Court ordered his release onábail ofá50 million rubles. He posted theámoney andáwas freed ináJanuary 2008. But he was repeatedly summoned to attend court hearings, where he wore a face mask and could barely stand up during the proceedings. Theácase against him was only dropped last year as theástatute ofálimitations ran out.
Aleksanyan "lived like onáa volcano" during his final years, said Yury Shmidt, aálawyer for Khodorkovsky.
"I was talking with aáfriend ofáAleksanyan's three days ago. He told me that Vasily feels absolutely fineá— he can eat, he can drink," Shmidt told Izvestia on Monday night. "But he lived all theátime inásuch aástate that if theáslightest infection occurs, he could die ináa second."
Aleksanyan is survived by his father, two brothers and a son. His funeral is planned for Thursday.