Russia slams EU parliament over lawyer's death

25th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Russia accused the European Parliament on Thursday of meddling in its internal affairs after it recommended sanctions against Russian officials implicated in the death of a jailed attorney.

The parliament's foreign affairs committee this week recommended that a travel ban be imposed on 60 Russian officials allegedly implicated in the death of Sergei Magnitsky from untreated illnesses a year ago.

The unanimous decision also urged European states to freeze the Russian officials' bank accounts. The recommendation is due to be considered at a full parliament session next month.

In a furious statement, the Russian foreign ministry said the committee had violated the presumption of innocence principle, and that a full investigation was still under way.

"It is hard to see these calls as anything other than an instigation toward the direct intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, and as open pressure on the judicial authorities of the Russian Federation," the statement said.

"As for the fact these recommendations were made before any court decision, let that rest on the conscience of those who prefer to 'designate the guilty' -- setting their punishment -- on their own," the foreign ministry said.

Five of the 60 officials identified by the European Parliament have already received distinction of merit medals from the interior ministry.

The death of Magnitsky, 37, sparked global condemnation and a renewed focus on Russia's record on human rights. The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International gave him one of its annual Integrity Awards earlier this month.

The travel ban has also been backed by a group of US lawmakers, who want the restrictions applied to both the investigators and Magnitsky's prison keepers.

The Russian attorney had been charged with tax evasion in connection with his work for investment fund Hermitage Capital Management fund, but supporters contend that his only offence was to expose foul play by top Russian officials.

© 2010 AFP

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