Former Yukos lawyer dies at 39: reports

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Vasily Aleksanian, former vice-president of oil group Yukos who struggled with AIDS and cancer in a Russian jail, has died at home, reports said Tuesday.

The trained lawyer's case evoked outrage and prompted an international human rights campaign after he was jailed while seriously ill in 2006. He remained incarcerated for two years.

Aleksanyan, 39, died at home on Monday evening, Dozhd internet television channel said, quoting his family.

He was diagnosed with AIDS in 2006 and "his condition considerably worsened during his imprisonment," said the press centre for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the Yukos executive currently serving his second term for fraud.

"He became blind and sick from liver cancer and tuberculosis," the centre said in a statement.

Aleksanian was accused of fraud and embezzlement and arrested in April 2006. Despite his worsening condition, he was denied treatment and even basic hygiene, his lawyers said at the time.

He was finally released in late 2008 on bail of 50 million roubles ($1.5 million) after an international campaign to move him to a hospital, which included a hunger strike by Khodorkovsky.

The case against him was closed last year.

"The fact that Aleksanyan was not released from prison for a long time when he was extremely sick definitely brought death closer," rights activist Lev Ponomaryov told the Echo of Moscow radio Tuesday. "He became blind in jail."

Last month the European Court of Human Rights cleared Russia's government of trying to destroy defunct oil giant Yukos in a ruling Moscow said proved its actions were not politically motivated.

© 2011 AFP

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