Russia probes two prison workers in lawyer's death

18th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian investigators launched a criminal probe Monday against two workers at a Moscow prison where a Western investment fund lawyer died pending trial on contested corruption charges.

The 2009 death of 37-year-old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky after nearly a year in Moscow's Butyrka Prison sparked international outrage and renewed Western fears about judicial independence in Russia.

Magnitsky worked at what was once Russia's largest Western investment fund and claimed to have uncovered a scheme used by officials to reclaim about $235 million in taxes paid by his firm.

The Russian lawyer was arrested shortly after making the claims and charged with fraud. He was investigated and prosecuted by the very officials he had accused of organising the crime.

A Kremlin rights commission report presented to President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month placed some of the blame for Magnitsky's death on doctors and other prison workers.

Russia's Investigative Committee said on Monday it had opened criminal probes against Magnitsky's prison doctor and her bosses on charges that can keep each behind bars for up to five years.

It added in a statement that more charges may be filed soon.

"It cannot be ruled out that other officials may be put on trial pending the evidence," the Investigative Committee statement said.

The Kremlin rights commission also singled out a top interior ministry investigator and the head of the Matrosskaya Tishina prison to which Magnitsky was taken for medical treatment less than 48 hours before his death.

© 2011 AFP

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