NEW YORK, February 15,/ITAR-TASS/. Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who has been sentenced in the United States to a long prison on drug smuggling charges, has been suffering from heart problems over the past two weeks and trying unsuccessfully to get medical attention, his lawyer Alexei Tarasov said.
“As the American practice requires, he has repeatedly reported his health problems to the prison administration, unsuccessfully trying to get their permission for urgent medical aid,” the lawyer told ITAR-TASS on Saturday, February 15.
He learnt from Yaroshenko’s relatives that “the assertions by the administration of the Fort Dix prison [in New Jersey where the pilot is serving his term] that the Russian inmate was allegedly ignoring the rules failing to report his health problems are wrong.”
“Konstantin, whose health deteriorated dramatically after tortures and humiliating treatment during the arrest, has been seeking urgent and qualified medical aid for at least the last two weeks. He has repeatedly filed written petitions about a sharp deterioration of health. But the prison administration did not respond,” the lawyer said.
This was confirmed to him by Yaroshenko’s mother and wife.
“Konstantin Yaroshenko has burning pains in the heart, his blood pressure is way up and he is running a fever. These are clear signs of pre-infarction angina, as a minimum,” Tarasov said.
He plans to meet Yaroshenko on Sunday, February 16. “If the prison administration puts up no obstacles, we will meet by all means,” he said.
Earlier this week, the prison administration denied urgent medical aid to Yaroshenko, 45. His cell block superintendant said Yaroshenko had not told him of any deterioration of his health. When told that the Russian pilot simply could not get up from his cot, the official said if he had managed to call the lawyer, he therefore could go and tell him about his health problems.
In September 2011, a U.S court sentenced Yaroshenko to 20 years in prison for having been allegedly involved in a criminal ring organised for smuggling a large shipment of cocaine. He was detained by the U.S. authorities in Liberia and then taken to the United States. Moscow believes that these charges are doubtful.
Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) chief Viktor Ivanov said that his Service had asked the U.S. to provide additional information on the case as only “a brief memo” was given to the Russian drug police, notifying them that Yaroshenko was suspected of drug trafficking in the U.S.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights, democracy and the rule of law Konstantin Dolgov said the New York court of appeals’ refusal to review the guilty verdict to Yaroshenko, was “inhuman, illogical and unacceptable”.
The Russian Foreign Ministry constantly monitors the situation concerning Yaroshenko and another Russian citizen Viktor Bout who has also been sentenced to a long prison term in the U.S.
“Not a meeting with our American colleagues at any level, including my regular contacts with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, passes without our raising the question of Bout and Yaroshenko,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier.
He believes that their cases have been artificially politicised. “Nevertheless, lawyers are working. Naturally, we rely on the wishes of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko themselves. The latter said he would not appeal further to higher-tier instances and asked for a return to Russia under the Council of Europe Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to serve his term at home,” the minister said, adding that both Russia and the U.S. were parties to the Convention.
“This mechanism can be used only when all stages of the appealing processes have been passed. Konstantin Yaroshenko has refused to appeal further and therefore he falls under this Convention. Viktor Bout has not made such a decision yet with his lawyers and this has to be decided by him and his family with whom we stay in touch,” Lavrov said.
He said Russian consulate officials regularly visited Bout and Yaroshenko in U.S. prisons. “There were complaints about the conditions of their imprisonment from the very beginning: Viktor Bout was put in the prison where dangerous special criminals are held. We are pressing - and the first results have already been achieved - for providing them with better conditions,” the minister said.
“We will keep working on this,” he noted.
“As for Konstantin Yaroshenko, he was basically snatched out of Liberia by deception and, just like Viktor Bout, taken to the U.S.,” Lavrov said.
He admitted that “they [American authorities] have so far failed to listen to our appeals to adhere to legal obligations. Many of our citizens have found themselves in similar situations, but Bout and Yaroshenko are the best known examples. They were sentenced to 25 years and life term for an intention to do something, and these intentions were beaten out of them by deception. As many American experts say, the verdicts are based on rather doubtful evidence.”
Bout, found guilty in November 2010 of arms smuggling conspiracy, has been sentenced by a New York court to 25 years in prison.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has advised Russians who may have problems with the American law to refrain from travelling to countries that have extradition agreements with the United States.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia advises Russian citizens to refrain from foreign trips, especially to the countries that have signed extradition agreements with the United States and if there are suspicions that American law enforcement agencies may take legal action against them,” the ministry said.
“Russian citizens have been detained more and more often lately in different countries at the request of American law enforcement agencies for their further extradition and judicial prosecution in the United States. The latest such examples include the arrests of Dmitry Ustinov in Lithuania, Dmitry Belorossov in Spain, Maxim Chukharev in Costa Rica, and Alexander Panin in the Dominican Republic,” the ministry said.
“Experience shows that the trials of those who were basically abducted and taken to the U.S. are biased, based on shaky evidence and conspicuously accusatory. As a rule, they result in illegitimate verdicts with long prison terms as in the case of Viktor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko, who were sentenced to 25 and 20 years in prison, respectively,” the ministry said.
“Russian consulate and consulates general provide consular and legal assistance to Russian citizens in difficult situations, but one cannot count on their successful resolution,” the ministry said.
More than 120 countries have extradition agreements with the United States, including all of the EU and Latin American countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.