Russia to Try Dead Lawyer over Corruption

18 Feb 2013

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Sergei Magnitsky’s grave in Moscow


A Russian court has held a pre-trial hearing in the case against late anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The court said the trial would start on March 4. It is believed to be the first time in Soviet or Russian history a defendant has been tried posthumously, reports the BBC.

Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after accusing officials of tax fraud but was later himself accused of those crimes.

His death in custody a year later has led to a diplomatic dispute between Russia and the US.

Last year the US passed the Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a Russian law barring Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

Magnitsky represented London-based Hermitage Capital Management. He uncovered what he described as a web of corruption involving Russian tax officials, including the alleged theft of more than $200m (£125m).

After reporting the allegations to the authorities, he was himself detained on suspicion of aiding tax evasion.

US-born fund manager Bill Browder, who runs Hermitage Capital, spearheaded efforts in the US to put pressure on Russia over the Magnitsky case. Browder was a major investor in Russia before Magnitsky's arrest.

In December, a Moscow court acquitted a prison doctor accused of negligence over Magnitsky's death.

He had pancreatitis, but an investigation by Russia's presidential council on human rights concluded that he had been severely beaten and denied medical treatment.

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