Report Accuses Officials Of ‘Psychological And Physical Pressure’ In Magnitsky Death

Dec 29 2009 | 10:16am ET

An independent Russian human rights group is blasting the treatment of hedge fund lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison last month.

The Moscow Public Oversight Commission, which is charged with monitoring human rights conditions in Moscow’s jails and prisons, accuses authorities of exerting undue pressure on Magnitsky because they lacked “sufficient evidence to prove his guilt.” Magnitsky, who represented British hedge fund Hermitage Capital Partners, had been charged with tax evasion and was arrested shortly after he accused Russian officials of stealing hundreds of millions from Hermitage.

The MPOC said Magnitsky’s treatment during his year in prison—the 37-year-old alleged that prosecutors had promised him leniency if he implicated Hermitage founder William Browder in wrongdoing, and that he had been denied adequate medical care—“cannot be viewed separately from the course of the investigation of the criminal case.”

“Psychological and physical pressure was exerted upon him,” the report alleges.

Russian officials have acknowledged some “guilt” in Magnitsky’s death, and more than 20 people have been fired as a result. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has ordered a full investigation into the case.

“Of particular concern are two facts. First, Magnitsky made a statement about the large-scale fraud involving theft of state money by high-ranking officials of the Russian Interior Ministry,” the 20-page report says. “He gave a detailed description of the fraudulent scheme and named names. Second, the one year in pretrial detention was due to expire. The investigators did not have sufficient evidence to prove his guilt."

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