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Anti-Hero of Our Time

Vera Vasilieva, 04/10/11


· Human Rights Education · Yukos Affair · Prisoners · Moscow City & Moscow Region

Vasily Aleksanyan was killed by the system. This system is not one of law enforcement or of correction, it is punitive. In many respects it inherits the features of the Stalinist GULAG. Russia twice ignored the instructions of the European Court of Human Rights to release the Yukos vice-president from pre-trial detention. Even in hospital, Aleksanyan, terminally ill and half-blind, was chained to a bed.

Moreover, in our criminal execution code there is a glaring absence. There is a list of illnesses that release an individual from the need to serve out their sentence in prison. The case of Vasily Aleksanyan fell within these rules: Aleksanyan suffered, among other things, from malignant cancer of the lymphatic and blood-forming tissues. However, this list has effect only for those convicted, and not for those in pre-trial detention.

In other words, an innocent person (and before conviction by a court all are so considered), unlike someone who has been convicted, on the basis of this list cannot be released.

As Natella Boltyanskaya, the author of many songs with a civic theme, has sung: “But the masters of killing and corruption and of other things of this kind have already been trained.” Watching today’s politically motivated trials on fabricated charges, I was regularly astonished how often the same individuals were involved in them – I mean investigators, prosecutors and judges.

Novaya gazeta has published a list of officials who took part in the prosecution of Vasily Aleksanyan. Among them was Evgeny Naidenov, a most noteworthy personage.

As Novaya gazeta pointed out, he appeared in the Yukos affair on two occasions. The first time was as an investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office when he brought the charges which resulted in Aleksei Pichugin, former head of the Yukos oil company’s security department, being sentenced to 20 years in a strict regime penal colony. Subsequently new charges and new convictions stiffened the sentence to one of life imprisonment. Yet Twenty of the years of the life sentence given to Aleksei Pichugin in 2005 were owing to the personal efforts of Evgeny Naidenov.

Subsequently prosecutor Naidenov requalified as judge of Moscow City Court and on 5 March 2008 he refused to release Vasily Aleksanyan from pre-trial detention. At that time Aleksanyan was suffering from cancer of the lymphatic system and AIDS.

Moreover, while still a prosecutor, Naidenov had won a conviction in the case of Igor Sutyagin, the former researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Earlier in the case Naidenov had secured the dismissal of one set of jurors that had inclined towards acquitting the researcher. Subsequently the European Court of Human Rights ruled that in Sutyagin’s case Russia violated Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guaranteeing the right to fair trial.

Naidenov also featured in the trial of Valentin Danilov, director of the Thermo-Physics Centre of Krasnoyarsk Technical University, who was convicted on fabricated charges of passing state secrets to China and sentenced to 13 years in prison.

The full list of those whom Novaya gazeta considers complicit in the death of Vasily Aleksanyan can be read on the newspaper’s website.

I believe that these lists are very valuable. As Aleksandr Galich wrote: “We shall remember the names of all those who raised their hands!”

Not in order to take revenge or to curse; and not merely to have the opportunity of bringing those responsible to justice under the law. But because a lack of historical memory threatens the country with yet more crimes and other ills.
Rights in Russia,
5 Oct 2011, 07:10