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A Russian court suspended the trial of an ailing former executive of the dismantled oil giant Yukos on Wednesday but refused to release him from jail to be treated for AIDS-related cancer and tuberculosis.

Lawyers for Vasily Aleksanian, a former lawyer for jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and a former vice president of Yukos, had asked the court to allow him to be treated in a hospital. The Simonovsky District Court ruled that Aleksanian should be treated in a Moscow jail because he could flee or pressure witnesses if released.

Authorities' refusal to allow hospital treatment for Aleksanian has sparked criticism that the company and some of its former executives are the victims of a Kremlin revenge campaign.

Khodorkovsky was sentenced to eight years in prison for fraud and tax evasion, a sentence widely seen as the Kremlin's revenge for his political ambitions and funding of opposition parties. Yukos, once Russia's largest oil producer and regarded as one of the country's best-run companies, was sold off in auctions ordered by the state to pay off billions of dollars in back tax claims.

Aleksanian is charged with embezzling funds and shares in Yukos subsidiary Tomskneft worth $490 million, charges he denies.

Khodorkovsky accused officials of trying to extract incriminating, false confessions from Aleksanian and denying him treatment until he cooperates. Khodorkovsky launched a hunger strike on Jan. 30 to protest authorities' refusal to give Aleksanian proper AIDS medication.

The prosecution had raised no objections to suspending Aleksanian's trial, but insisted Aleksanian must remain in custody.

Aleksanian who looked tired and haggard, was visibly angry when he heard the court's verdict.

His lawyer, Yelena Lvova, said he could not get proper treatment in custody and the Moscow-based group For Human Rights denounced the ruling as a "demonstration of the government's inexorable cruelty."


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