Russian laser scientist dies two days after arrest on state treason charges

Russian laser scientist dies two days after arrest on state treason charges
3 min read
Physicist Dmitry Kolker, 54, who suffered from advanced pancreatic cancer, had been taken from his hospital bed and bundled on a flight of more than four hours to Moscow.
Dmitry Kolker, 54, was a renowned Russian laser scientist [Christophe Coat/EyeEm/Getty-file photo]

A renowned Russian scientist who was recently arrested 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 on Sunday.

Physicist Dmitry Kolker, 54, had been taken from his hospital bed, where he was being fed through a tube, and was bundled onto a flight of more than four hours to Moscow, where the lawyers said he was taken to Lefortovo prison and later died in a nearby hospital.

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

"He was a scientist, he loved his country, he was working in his country despite many invitations from leading universities and labs to go 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 be levied on such a sick man. They knew that he was on his deathbed and they chose to arrest him."

Kolker died on Saturday, AFP reported. This was two days after this arrest.

The family and lawyers said Kolker was detained, and his house searched, by the FSB security service.

They said the treason charges – which carry a sentence of up to 20 years – were based on lectures Kolker had delivered in China, even though the content had been approved by the FSB.

Reuters did not receive a reply to an emailed request for comment from the FSB.

Lawyer Alexander Fedulov told Reuters he had attempted to contact the authorities on behalf of Kolker but was turned away from the FSB investigative department and from the prison.

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

On Saturday, state news agency TASS said Russia had detained a second scientist in Novosibirsk on suspicion of state treason.

It was not clear if the two cases were connected.

A number of Russian scientists have been arrested and charged with treason in recent years for allegedly passing sensitive material to foreigners.

Critics of the Kremlin say the arrests often stem from unfounded paranoia.

A specialist in lasers, Kolker headed a laboratory on "quantum and optical technologies", according to Novosibirsk State University's website.

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

"To me, somebody who was producing such beautiful things could not have done what they accuse him of. And that's for ever how I'm going to remember him," he said, fighting back tears.

"That's who Dima is to me and the rest of the family."

(Reuters, AFP)