Writing in the Moscow Times, recently freed dissident attorney Mikhail Trepashkin, jailed to silence his inquiry on behalf of an independent committee (several of whose members were killed or assaulted) into the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings, condemns neo-Soviet Russia:
I was arrested on trumped-up charges of illegal-firearms possession in October 2003, several days before I was to give crucial evidence regarding what I believe to be the Federal Security Service's role in the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings.
I was held in Building 6 of the Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center from December 2003 to October 2004. Building 6 is the so-called hospital ward of the detention center, and it is the same place that former Yukos executive Vasily Aleksanyan was held while waiting trial.
Just as in Aleksanyan's case, I was assured that I would be given medical attention for my asthma. But the Federal Prison Service manipulated the information in my medical history to deny me treatment that I needed. The term "hospital ward" can in no way be applied to Building 6 because there is no medical care to speak of at the detention facility. The seriously ill detainees placed in this section drop like flies because it is rife with dirt and infection.
The authorities at Matrosskaya Tishina treat the sick detainees like dangerous criminals. I highly respect Vadim Pokrovsky, head of the Federal AIDS Center, but he apparently is not aware of the poor treatment in detention centers and prisons. In addition, he is too willing to believe the lies of the Federal Prison Service.
As I understand, Aleksanyan was held on the second floor of Building 6. All HIV-positive detainees with AIDS-related illnesses, such as cancer, tuberculosis and meningitis, are placed on the second floor. The central function of this floor is to incorporate physical isolation as a form of punishment -- that is, complete isolation from the outside world under the pretext of establishing a medical quarantine.
In addition, the authorities institute 24-hour observation of detainees -- again, under the pretext of medical necessity, but the real motive is to apply psychological torture.
I remember very well when they brought in a detainee with the same illnesses from which Aleksanyan suffers. At some point during the night, the detainee suffered serious complications and started bleeding from the mouth. The other prisoners started banging on their doors, begging the authorities to summon medical help. No one responded. The detainee died the next morning, and we all saw how he was carried away on a gurney to the morgue, which is located on the premises.
The "courtyard," intended for one-hour open-air recreation for the detainees with infectious diseases, was slightly larger than a typical prison cell -- a tiny, enclosed area with virtually no sunlight. Because of the constant precipitation in this area, the ground was always covered with mud. Moreover, the corners of these areas were full of vomit and feces. The area hadn't been cleaned in months, if not longer, which meant that it was an incubator for the further spread of infectious diseases among seriously ill detainees.
During the 1990s, there was a lot of talk about punishing those who commit economic crimes with financial measures, not prison sentences. Now government officials are committing grievous crimes against their own citizens who are being held on questionable charges.
The fact that the terminally ill Aleksanyan was held in pretrial detention under such inhumane circumstances is a crime in and of itself -- a crime committed by judges, prosecutors and high-ranking officials that poses the greatest threat to society.