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Report alleges corruption, torture in Russia lawyer prison death

A private investigative report issued on Monday detailed the denial of medical treatment [report text, PDF] to and severe physical abuse of former Russian lawyer and purported whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky [JURIST news archive], who died [JURIST report] in a Moscow prison in November 2009. In addition to details of Magnitsky's treatment and death, the report alleges corruption by Russian officials in the cover up of the details surrounding Magnitsky's death, and surrounding the apparent theft of $230 million from the Russian Treasury. The report concluded "the Russian government knows exactly who tortured and killed Sergei Magnitsky, as well as who stole $230 million, but has refused to investigate and prosecute them." 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]. Russian investigators reopened the case [JURIST report] against Magnitsky in August on the basis of a new ruling permitting criminal cases against the dead.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] announced in July 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. 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. Last year, US lawmakers introduced a bill [JURIST report] that would prohibit the US State Department [official website] from issuing visas to individuals, or their family members, who are connected to Magnitsky's death. In 2009, shortly following Magnitsky's death, a Russian human rights group alleged [JURIST report] that Magnitsky had been murdered while in prison.

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