Top Russian human rights lawyer may have been poisoned
Karinna Moskalenko, who represents some of the Kremlin's best known critics, fell ill after finding substance similar to mercury in her car.
15 October 2008
STRASBOURG -- French police have started an inquiry into the suspected poisoning of a top Russian human rights lawyer being treated for possible mercury intoxication, a court official said Tuesday.
Contacted by AFP, the lawyer, Karinna Moskalenko, said that her husband had found a large quantity of "a substance similar to mercury" in their car on Monday and she had subsequently filed a complaint with police.
"I feel worse and worse. My children also feel bad," Moskalenko said.
Claude Palpacuer, an assistant prosecutor in Strasbourg, said: "It could be" mercury poisoning "but that has to be confirmed by a second analysis," adding however that the quantity found would not be enough to endanger life.
The Russian lawyer, who travels frequently to Strasbourg because of her work with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), is suffering from "headaches, nausea and watery eyes," said Anna Stavitskaya, one of her colleagues.
"This appears to have been an attempt at intimidation" linked to the trial on the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in which Moskalenko is representing the late Kremlin critic's family, Stavitskaya said.
Moskalenko will be forced to miss an appearance in court in Moscow on Wednesday for a preliminary hearing ahead of the main trial. Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her home in central Moscow in 2006.
As well as being a lawyer for Politkovskaya's family, Moskalenko also represents jailed tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and has brought dozens of cases involving abuses in Chechnya and Russian prisons to the ECHR in Strasbourg.
If confirmed as a poisoning the case would carry echoes of the 2006 poisoning murder of former security service officer Alexander Litvinenko in London, which has damaged relations between Britain and Russia.
[AFP / Expatica]