Russian laser scientist dies two days after arrest for state treason

  • Terminally ill scientist arrested in hospital bed
  • Family says ‘ridiculous’ charge was based on lectures in China
  • Lawyer plans to file legal complaint

LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) – A Russian scientist arrested last week in Siberia on suspicion of state treason and flown to Moscow despite suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer has died, lawyers and a family member said Sunday.

Physicist Dmitry Kolker, 54, had been taken from his hospital bed, where he was tube-fed, and bundled up on a more than four-hour flight to Moscow, where lawyers said he was taken to Lefortovo prison and later died in a nearby hospital.

His cousin Anton Dianov told Reuters of the United States that the accusation against the laser specialist – that he had betrayed state secrets to China – was ridiculous.

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“He was a scientist, he loved his country, he worked in his country despite many invitations from leading universities and laboratories to work abroad. He wanted to work in Russia, he wanted to teach students there,” he said.

“These charges are absolutely ridiculous and extremely cruel and unusual to charge such a sick man. They knew he was on his deathbed and chose to arrest him.”

According to the family and lawyers, Kolker was arrested and his house was searched by the FSB security service. They said the charges of treason – which carry a prison term of up to 20 years – were based on lectures Kolker gave in China, although the content had been approved by the FSB.

Reuters received no response to an emailed request for comment from the FSB.

Lawyer Alexander Fedulov told Reuters he had tried to contact authorities on Kolker’s behalf, but had been sent away from the FSB’s investigative department and prison.

He said he would file a legal complaint on Monday about the circumstances of Kolker’s detention.

State news agency TASS said on Saturday that Russia has detained a second scientist in Novosibirsk on suspicion of state treason. It was not clear whether the two cases were related. read more

A number of Russian scientists have been arrested in recent years and charged with treason for allegedly passing sensitive material to foreigners. Kremlin critics say the arrests often stem from unfounded paranoia.

Dianov, the nephew, said Kolker was also a very accomplished concert pianist and organist who performed both in Russia and Europe.

“To me, someone who produced such beautiful things couldn’t have done what they accuse him of. And that’s how I’ll remember him forever,” he said, fighting back tears. “That’s who Dima is to me and the rest of the family.”

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Reporting by Reuters Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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