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Russia dismisses charges against doctor accused in lawyer prison death

The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federal [official website, in Russian] on Monday dismissed all charges [press release, in Russian] against a Russian doctor accused of negligence in the death of former Russian lawyer and purported whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky [JURIST news archive], who died [JURIST report] in a Moscow prison in November 2009. Larisa Litvinova, who was Magnitsky's doctor while he in prison, had been accused of involuntary manslaughter after a private investigation last year found that Magnitsky died from severe physical abuse and denial of medical treatment [JURIST report]. The Investigative Committee dropped the charges against Litvinova, which carried a possible three-year prison sentence, saying that the statute of limitations had expired [Moscow Times report]. 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]. Another doctor at the prison, Dmitry Kratov, still faces negligence charges that could carry a five-year prison sentence.

Before last year's investigative report was released, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile; JURIST news archive] said 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. In a controversial move last August, Russian investigators reopened the case [JURIST report] against Magnitsky on the basis of a new ruling permitting criminal cases against the dead. Critics of this action, such as JURIST Contributing Editor David Crane, argue that the ongoing posthumous prosecution of Magnitsky is a violation of the rule of law [JURIST op-ed] and an embarrassment for the Russian judicial system. 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 2010, 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.

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