Russian lawyer beaten on day of jail death: supporters

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A Western investment fund whose attorney died in a Moscow jail published documents Monday alleging to show prison officials authorised the use of rubber batons on the day of his death.

The case of Sergei Magnitsky -- a whistle-blowing lawyer who alleged mass embezzlement by the tax police -- has been highlighted by the West as one of the most flagrant abuses of human rights in Russia in recent years.

The 37-year-old's death also raised alarm over the Russian justice system's impartiality and the ability of the police to manipulate the courts.

Magnitsky's Hermitage Capital firm campaigned to prove that their lawyer was tortured to death in prison as punishment for his charges against the Russian tax police and senior interior ministry officials.

It published a 75-page report on Monday featuring what it said was a photocopy of an internal Moscow prison document authorising the use of handcuffs and batons against Magnitsky on the day of his death.

"A rubber baton was used against the suspect," the standard form document said. It then had Magnitsky's name written down in pen in the space provided for the inmate's identification and was dated November 16, 2009.

Magnitsky died later that evening.

The fund also published a separate document showing an investigator into the case urging his superiors three days after the incident to open an official murder investigation.

That request was denied and subsequent state reports concluded that Magnitsky had died from complications of medical ailments he had prior to being jailed.

Investigators have charged two prison doctors with neglect. But Hermitage Capital -- founded by the US-born investor William Browder and now based in London -- said the state was only trying to cover up its crimes.

"This report shows irrefutable documentary evidence of the roles of specific high level officials in the false arrest, torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky and the cover-up that followed," Hermitage Capital said in a statement.

Russian police and prison officials issued no immediate comment.

© 2011 AFP

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