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Russian prison officials in clear over lawyer death: report

Russian prison officials were not to blame for the death of a lawyer last year that prompted an outcry over the appalling conditions in the nation’s jails, a senior prosecution official said on Monday.

Sergei Magnitsky, a 37-year-old lawyer working for investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, died in a Moscow prison hospital last November.

The cause of his death was officially given as heart failure, and the fallout from the case led to President Dmitry Medvedev ordering an investigation.

“There are no reasons to believe that his death resulted from the actions of officials who were responsible for his criminal investigation,” said Russia’s chief prosecutor Alexander Bastrykin, in an interview published Monday on the website of official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

“There is no objective data to say that he was investigated illegally, or confirming that he was under physical or psychological pressure or a victim of torture,” he said.

Bastrykin said the investigation into the affair was ongoing.

In prison diary extracts published by opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Magnitsky complained of filthy conditions, cold, hunger and a lack of medical treatment for a kidney problem.

The lawyer was detained in late 2008 over suspected tax evasion worth 500 million rubles (12 million euros).