US visa blacklist after Russian lawyer's death: report

26th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

The US State Department has put on a visa blacklist dozens of Russian officials connected to the death in prison of a young lawyer, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, 37, who had been held in pre-trial detention in a complex fraud case for 11 months, died in the Matrosskaya Tishina jail in Moscow in 2009 in a tragedy that sparked international outrage.

Magnitsky's supporters have contended top officials deliberately neglected his health in a bid to effectively silence the lawyer and a Kremlin rights council this month said a top investigator and prison chief were at fault.

The Post cited US administration documents as revealing the existence of the visa blacklist, and wrote that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had taken steps to ban individuals associated with the Magnitsky's death from traveling to the United States.

The Post wrote that Moscow, infuriated over meddling into what it says are its internal affairs, is threatening to curtail its cooperation on Iran, North Korea, Libya and the transit of supplies for Afghanistan.

Russia reacted furiously earlier this month when the Netherlands parliament voted in favour of a resolution imposing travel and economic sanctions against Russian officials linked to Magnitsky's death.

Russia's Investigative Committee said this month it has opened criminal probes against the doctor and deputy head of the Butyrskaya prison in Moscow where Magnitsky had been held for several months.

But the top officials cited as being at fault in the report of the council which advises President Dmitry Medvedev on rights issues have not been prosecuted.

Magnitsky, a lawyer for Western investment fund Hermitage Capital, had before his arrest accused top interior ministry officials of a scheme to fraudulently claim more than $200 million (140 million euros) in returns on taxes.

And it was the same police investigators who led the case against him, charging him with the very crimes he had reported.

© 2011 AFP

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