Russia charges two doctors over Magnitsky's prison death

12th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia has charged two doctors at a Moscow prison with causing the 2009 death in pre-trial detention of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, a tragedy that ignited global outrage, investigators said Friday.

The Investigative Committee said it had "established a direct link between Magnitsky's death and actions of the doctors in the prison" and had charged prison doctors Larisa Litvinova and Dmitry Kratov.

Litvinova is charged with causing death by negligence and if convicted could face up to three years in prison. Dmitry Kratov, who holds a senior post of deputy prison director, is charged with carelessness and faces up to five years in jail.

Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer, spent nearly a year in pre-trial detention in Moscow's Butyrka prison after his arrest in 2008.

He died of untreated heart conditions and pancreatitis in an isolation cell despite filing dozens of complaints demanding medical treatment.

Prior to his detention Magnitsky was working at what was once Russia's largest Western investment fund and claimed to have uncovered a scheme used by police officials to reclaim about $235 million in taxes paid by his employer Hermitage Capital.

But instead officials charged Magnitsky with fraud and put him in Butyrka, Moscow's most infamous prison. A report last month by President Dmitry Medvedev's human rights council said that he may have been beaten.

Mikhail Fedotov, who heads the council, said the charges indicate "movement in the right direction," but added that senior interior ministry officers should also be investigated, Interfax reported.

Hermitage Capital chief William Browder has published his own findings in the case of Magnitsky's death and has alleged that corrupt tax reclamation schemes extended far beyond regular officials up to federal ministers.

The United States and other Western countries also expressed alarm over Magnitsky's death and Washington has now imposed a visa blacklist against Russian officials who it believes were involved.

In a sign of the diplomatic damage caused by the controversy, reports said this week that Russia has already hit back with its own blacklist for US officials deemed to have violated the rights of Russians in separate cases.

© 2011 AFP

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