Russia orders new probe on anniversary of lawyer's death

16th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Tuesday ordered a new forensic probe into the death in jail one year ago of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, which his supporters contend was caused by dire conditions at a notorious prison.

Magnitsky, who had been charged with tax evasion in a highly-complex financial case, died on November 16, 2009 after a year in pre-trial detention without ever being convicted of a crime.

Activists have highlighted the case as one of the most flagrant violations of rights in Russia in the past years and have claimed Magnitsky was left to die by officials whose wrongdoings he dared to expose.

The investigative committee of prosecutors said in a statement that experts had carried out three separate forensic examinations which found Magnitsky had died of "severe heart deficiency caused by dilated cardiomyopathy."

Dilated cardiomyopathy is a condition where the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and can no longer pump blood properly.

"However there were a number of contradictions in the conclusions of the experts and specialists," the investigators said in a statement.

"As a result, the investigation has ordered an additional forensic examination."

The statement said that the examination was being conducted by the federal forensic examination agency which works under the aegis of the ministry of health.

Magnitsky was held in Moscow's notorious Butyrka jail which housed political rebels in Tsarist times and top dissidents in the Soviet Union.

According to his lawyers, he fell ill with gallstones, acute calculous cholecystitis and acute pancreatitis and was denied treatment until the last minute.

However interior ministry officials who supervised his case have denied any wrongdoing and Monday insisted that Magnitsky was implicated in complex alleged embezzlement scam involving investment fund Hermitage Capital Management.

In a show of defiance to the criticism, the interior ministry last week gave awards to two top officials who had handled the case and another official who Magnitsky had accused of being behind the embezzlement scam.

© 2010 AFP

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