US Physician Concludes Imprisoned Attorney Zeltser "May Not Survive"

NEW YORK (RNWire) - An American physician who has examined Emanuel Zeltser, being held by the Belarus security services, has concluded that the imprisoned US attorney's health is "rapidly deteriorating" and that treatment being given him is "clearly rudimentary and insufficient". A medical report released today confirmed that Mr. Zeltser "may not survive his detention" under current conditions.

Dr. Albert Benchabbat, a New York physician certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, flew to Belarus last week as an independent medical examiner in accordance with an agreement reached between the US Department of State and the Belarus Foreign Ministry. The examination was sought as a consequence of reports that Mr. Zeltser has been deprived of proper medical treatment for a number of serious ailments, including diabetes and arthritis.

Dr. Benchabbat was allowed to see Mr. Zeltser at a Belarus KGB prison in Minsk on Thursday (June 26), following negotiations between the US State Department and the Belarus Foreign Ministry. The examination took place in the presence of a KGB investigator, a local physician and an interpreter. US Consular representatives and Mr. Zeltser's lawyer were not present.

In a five-page medical report issued today by Dr. Benchabbat following his return to New York, he stated:

":Emanuel Zeltser may not survive his detention if his treatment is not resumed and all his pain killers that he was taking prior to his arrest as prescribed by his physician are re-started."

Mr. Zeltser was arrested in mid-March along with his secretary as they disembarked from a private jet arriving from London. Held in custody since then, their detention has drawn protests from the US State Department, human rights organizations and members of the US Congress.

Mr. Zeltser's supporters believe his arrest was orchestrated by London-based tycoon

Boris Berezovsky in connection with a legal battle over the estate of the late Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian billionaire who died unexpectedly in February. Mr. Zeltser was acting as attorney to Joseph Kay, executor of the Patarkatsishvili estate, and had been in London for talks with Mr. Berezovsky. Though scheduled to fly home to the US following the meetings, Mr. Zeltser and his secretary were instead flown on Mr. Berezovsky's private jet to Minsk, where they were immediately arrested. The reason for the trip remains a mystery, but it was preceded by a visit by a Berezovsky lawyer and by Berezovsky himself, known to be on close personal terms with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

Reports of Mr. Zeltser's worsening medical condition led his 92-year-old mother to send a personal appeal to President Lukashenko two weeks ago. "I do not wish to outlive my son," she wrote. "I know you are a father and I appeal to your humanity and good will to stop the murder and save the life of my son."

After protracted negotiations, in which Mr Zeltser's brother Mark, an internationally known concert pianist, offered to send a physician, the Belarus authorities agreed to allow an independent medical examination last week.

Dr. Benchabbat's report states:

"I was presented with a 54-year-old white male looking 10 years older than his real age unable to walk without help, the patient has severe kyphosis of the spine and is unable to stand without help. During the examination, the patient complained of pain in the spine, lumbar-sacral spine, should and feet, abdominal pain, the right kidney pain. The patient also complained he could not sleep because of such excruciating pain."

Treatment by prison medical authorities has been limited to the painkiller ibuprofen and some ointment, the report states.

"Upon review and comparison of the patient's medical history, his chart from March 17, 2008 to June 3, 2008 and results of examination of the current condition of the patient, I can definitely conclude that the patient's health is in a very poor state, his medical condition is rapidly deteriorating and, having taken into consideration the current medical treatment which is clearly rudimentary and insufficient for these serious illnesses, Emanuel Zeltser may not survive his detention if his treatment is not resumed and all his pain killers that he was taking prior to his arrest as prescribed by his physician are restarted:."

For a full transcript of the medical report: