ATHENS, March 14. /TASS/. The defense of Russian national Alexander Vinnik, arrested in July 2017, insists that the Greek court at its forthcoming session on March 20 should order his release from custody, the chief of the group of lawyers, Timofei Musatov, told TASS by telephone.
Musatov said the defense had filed a request at a special court for Vinnik’s release, because his imprisonment was illegal. "He is kept in custody in violation of the Greek Constitution. The maximum period of custody [18 months] has been exceeded. Also, there is no court decision prolonging his arrest," the lawyer said. "Vinnik’s poor health is another reason, because he has been on a three-month hunger strike."
The lawyer said that after he suspended the hunger strike, Vinnik was transferred to hospital but no special assistance was being given to him. "True, Alexander is now in hospital. He has paused his hunger strike to stay alive till March 20. He takes juices and remains under doctors’ supervision. As far as I know, they make no injections, just monitor his condition. He paused the hunger strike of his own accord, because he understands he may not survive until March 20," Musatov said.
The defense demands Vinnik’s release because at the hospital he gets no proper treatment.
"It is clearly not enough. We insist on his complete release," Musatov said.
He explained that at the moment only his client’s release from custody was on the agenda. "In this particular case hospital is in no way different from prison. A prison hospital ward is in fact a prison cell, with the guards at the door, window bars and everything else. The conditions there are prison-like. Alexander is not allowed to see normal sunlight. He is denied the daily walk and everything else," Musatov said.
He stressed that keeping in jail a person who had not committed any crimes, such as violent ones, was an excessive measure.
"What’s the point of keeping him there? He is not going to escape justice. Then what is the reason for keeping him in prison? Punishment. After all, imprisonment is punishment and nothing else," Musatov pointed out.
Even if Vinnik is released from custody, this will not mean that he will be able to leave the country for home.
"If he is put under house arrest or released in exchange for written promise not to leave town, he will not be able to leave for Russia, at least for the time being," Musatov said.
The lawyer said that despite verdicts by the Greek Supreme Court on Alexander Vinnik’s extradition to the United States, Russia and France the Justice Ministry had not made a final decision yet.
"There are two options - Greece should either release him from custody or make some other move," Musatov said, adding that no extradition was possible at the moment. "Final decisions are made by the Justice Minister."
Vinnik hopes the court on March 20 will consider his impartial complaint and request for release.
"If the complaint is not considered, then Alexander will apparently continue the hunger strike. It’s his decision," Musatov said.
Vinnik was detained in Greece on July 25, 2017 at the United States’ request, where he is accused of laundering four billion to nine billion dollars through a no longer existent Internet exchange of cryptocurrencies BTC-e. In 2017, the Greek Supreme Court ruled Vinnik should be extradited to the United States. In 2018, it first decided in favor of his extradition to Russia at the request of the Prosecutor-General’s Office, and then, to France on Paris’s arrest warrant.
Since November 26, 2018 Vinnik had been on hunger strike in jail in protest against judicial outrage. He claimed he was a political prisoner and demanded the Greek authorities should let him return home. On February 28, Vinnik’s lawyers secured their client’s transfer to a special clinic where he was to receive medical assistance to recover from the effects of the hunger-strike.
Vinnik’s defense has demanded from the Greek authorities his release form custody, because on January 26, 2019 was the last day of an 18-month-long period a person may be kept under arrest without hearing official charges. Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika on March 6 said after talks with Greek Minister of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights Michalis Kalogirou he was promised that the issue of Alexander Vinnik’s extradition would be considered fairly and impartially.