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Russia reopens posthumous case against dead lawyer

Russian investigators on Tuesday reopened a case against former lawyer and purported whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who died [JURIST report] in a Moscow prison in November 2009. Magnitsky was arrested on allegations of tax fraud after implicating Russian police in a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scandal while working as outside counsel for the London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital Management [corporate website]. Prosecutors resurrected the case [RFE/FL report] against Magnitsky following a June ruling by the Russian Constitutional Court [official website, in Russian] that permits criminal cases to be filed against suspects who are already dead [press release, in Russian]. The Russian Ministry of the Interior (MOI) [official website, in Russian], however, has refused to open an investigation [WP report] into the treatment of Magnitsky at the Russian prison.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced in June that Magnitsky's pre-trial death was the result of criminal acts [JURIST report] and not attributable to the denial of medical treatment from prison doctors. Medvedev was presented with a report [AFP report] on Magnitsky's death during a meeting [press release, in Russian] with the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights that said Magnitsky was beaten to death by prison guards before his death. Prior to his death, Magnitsky was held in prison for 358 days with little to no access to legal representation, his family or medical professionals. In February, the Council began investigating Magnitsky's death and the verdicts handed down against former Russian oil executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [defense website]. The Council's goal is to submit to Medvedev, "expert legal analysis in connection with specific cases causing public outcry or defining trend of judicial practice." The Council began its work shortly after a group of independent UN human rights experts started its own investigation into the circumstances around Magnitsky's death. Last year, US lawmakers introduced a bill [JURIST report] that would prohibit the US State Department (DOS) [official website] from issuing visas to individuals, or their family members, who are connected to Magnitsky's death.

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