‘Almost Blind’ Anti-Putin Activist to Remain Behind Bars

MOSCOW, November 26 (Marc Bennetts, RIA Novosti) – A Moscow court refused to free on bail on Monday a political activist charged with attacking police officers at an anti-Putin protest despite claims he is “rapidly going blind” in prison.

The court based its ruling on expert medical testimony indicating that the eyesight of the leftist activist, Vladimir Akimenkov, 25, was not in danger.

But Akimenkov’s lawyer, Dmitry Arganovsky, said his client needs urgent medical attention that he is unable to receive in the Moscow prison where he is being held ahead of his trial.

“Akimenkov has a congenital eye condition and was even excused from military service due to it,” Arganovsky told RIA Novosti. “It’s clear when we see him that his vision is worsening. He can barely see the documents we give him.”

Akimenkov told the court on November 1 that his vision was deteriorating. “I am unable to make out your face, your honor, and I am rapidly going blind,” he said.

Arganovsky also accused the court of double standards, citing the case of Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, a Defense Ministry official suspected of involvement in a $100 million property scam who was placed under house arrest on Friday.

“Why can’t they treat Akimenkov in the same way?” Arganovsky asked.

Arganovsky also said a number of public figures, including parliamentary lawmakers and bestselling writer Lyudmila Ulitskaya, had offered to act as guarantors if Akimenkov was granted bail.

Akimenkov, an activist with the Left Front political movement, was detained at a Moscow protest on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s May 7 inauguration and charged with taking part in mass disorder and assaulting police officers. He denies the charges.

Of the 17 other people arrested after the May 6 clashes in central Moscow, only one has yet to be sentenced. Maxim Luzyanin, who pleaded guilty to charges of participating in the violence that marred the protests, was jailed for 4-and-a-half years earlier this month.

Left Front leader Sergei Udaltsov reacted furiously to the court’s refusal to free Akimenkov.

“Are they waiting until he goes completely blind? Gestapo,” tweeted Udaltsov, one of the leaders of the anti-Putin protest movement.

Udaltsov is also facing the prospect of a lengthy jail sentence after being charged, along with two other Left Front activists, of conspiring to destabilize Russia as part of a plot to topple Putin. All three men deny the allegations.


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