Court extends custody of terminally ill ex-Yukos executive - 2

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MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - A court in Moscow refused to release from custody former Yukos vice president Vasily Aleksanyan, diagnosed as suffering with both AIDS and cancer, lawyer Yelena Lvova said Friday.

"The court concluded that arguments of Aleksanyan being unable to stay in a pre-trial detention center for health reasons are untrue," Lvova said.

She said the court considered the accused had refused a medical examination and that there was no medical evidence that he has cancer.

Lawyers have repeatedly asked for hearings on Aleksanyan's case to be stopped and for him to be transferred to a medical facility for inpatient treatment. The former vice president of the now liquidated Russian oil company faces charges of embezzlement and money laundering.

On Wednesday jailed former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky went on hunger strike demanding that his former colleague Aleksanyan be transferred to a medical facility for urgent treatment. He alleged that authorities are refusing to treat Aleksanyan until he confesses to charges.

"My friend, lawyer and former colleague is being coerced into testifying against me, under what, is in fact torture. I know from numerous media reports that Aleksanyan is seriously ill and is being refused medical treatment, threatening certain death. They are killing him in prison because he, as a courageous and honest man, refuses to lie and slander," Khodorkovsky said.

Khodorkovsky is serving an eight-year prison term for fraud and tax evasion. He has consistently maintained his innocence calling the accusations politically motivated.

Once Russia's largest oil producer, Yukos collapsed after claims of tax evasion, which led to the company being broken up and sold off to meet debts. The bulk of its assets were subsequently bought by government-controlled oil company Rosneft.

Khodorkovsky's business partner Platon Lebedev, also serving his term for fraud and tax evasion, said Friday in a Chita court that he is ready to plead guilty to charges if it will help Aleksanyan.

"I am ready to admit to all the delirious accusations by the Prosecutor General's office if it helps Aleksanyan," Lebedev said during a court hearing at which his custody in relation to a new probe against him and Khodorkovsky was extended until May 2.

The new charges against Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who were convicted in 2005, include stealing government shares, illegal oil trading, and laundering $25 billion earned from oil sales in 1998-2004. Both businessmen have denied the allegations, calling them politically motivated.

The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service said Friday it planned to sue Aleksanyan's lawyer, Yelena Lvova.

"The Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center, where Aleksanyan is being held, said it would sue Yelena Lvova to defend its honor, dignity and business reputation. This decision was made after numerous libelous statements, which discredited the [prison] service," a spokesman said.

He said the detention center could provide treatment to Aleksanyan for his condition, but that the accused had refused treatment.

The prison service also said if Khodorkovsky refuses to eat, it is likely he will be force-fed as "the detention center administration is responsible for the prisoners' health."

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