Moscow Warns West Against Interfering in Magnitsky Case

Russia considers it unacceptable for other countries to interfere in its domestic court trial over the late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky charged with tax evasion, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Magnitsky, an anti-corruption lawyer who worked with the Hermitage Capital investment fund, died in Moscow’s infamous Matrosskaya Tishina pretrial detention center in November 2009, a year after he was arrested on tax evasion charges. Although he is dead, Russian prosecutors reopened the case against him earlier this year.

“The situation when ‘the Magnitsky case’ is used for political speculations and initiatives on some kind of sanctions in regard to Russia is unacceptable for us,” the ministry said in a statement.

The U.S. Department of State issued visa bans for several dozen Russian officials in connection to the Magnitsky case in July 2011. In response, Russia has also imposed travel bans on several U.S. officials.

“We hope that our foreign partners will draw correct conclusions and will abstain from actions or statements that could influence the result of the case over Magnitsky,” the statement said.

The U.S. Senate is expected to consider a bill later this month imposing sanctions on Russian officials allegedly linked to Magnitsky’s death as well as on “individuals responsible for other gross violations of human rights.” Despite the outrage that the Magnitsky Act triggered from Russia, U.S. Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in April the U.S. administration continued to support the legislation.

Shortly before Magnitsky was arrested, he claimed to have uncovered a massive fraud in which Moscow tax and police officials had allegedly embezzled $230 million of budget funds.

A probe into his death revealed that the 37-year-old lawyer, who was suffering from untreated pancreatitis and hearth condition, did not receive proper medical treatment. Rights activists pointed to multiple violations of the lawyer’s rights during his arrest and detention, including signs that he was beaten by prison guards hours before his death.

Magnitsky’s relatives appealed to the Moscow City Court earlier in the year to cancel the resumed case over the late lawyer, but the court rejected the motion on Monday.


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