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Moscow court acquits prison doctor in death of Russian whistleblower

A Moscow court on Friday acquitted prison doctor Dmitry Kratov of all charges stemming from the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. A Russian judge found that there was no evidence [Al Jazeera report] showing a causal link between Kratov's negligence and Magnitsky's death. Dr. Kratov was the head of medical services at Butyrka Prison, where Magnitsky died from untreated pancreatitis. An investigation conducted by Russia's Presidential Council on Human Rights [official website] concluded [JURIST report] that in addition to being denied medical treatment Magnitsky had been severely beaten during his year long pretrial incarceration. Kratov was accused of negligence for allegedly refusing to respond to repeated requests by Magnitsky to treat his life-threatening condition. Acquittal had been expected as earlier this week the prosecution dropped their accusations, stating they no longer believed there was any connection between Kratov's actions and Magnitsky's death. Kratov had pleaded not guility, citing a shortage of staff as the main factor behind his inability to treat Magnitsky. Magnitsky's family and lawyers said Kratov's trial was a sham [Newsday report], and stated that Kratov should be held responsible for his role in Magnitksky's death.

Magnitsky, a lawyer for the Hermitage Capital Fund [official website], was arrested in 2008 by Russian Interior Ministry [official website, in English] officials on suspicion of tax evasion after he accused the ministry of embezzling $230 million from the state. The US Helsinki Commission [official website] has implicated 60 Russian government officials in the Magnitsky case, but only Kratov has been tried. Earlier this month, the US Congress passed the Magnitsky Act [text] in the lawyer's name, which will allow the US Secretary of the Treasury [official website] to freeze assets, prohibit all transactions and deny visas to Russians implicated in human rights abuses. In retaliation, Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive] on Friday signed into law [JURIST report] a bill that prohibits US citizens from adopting Russian children.

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