On Magnitsky, “They lied, and they lied a lot”

magnistky122809.jpgGreg White’s article in the Wall Street Journal today on the the Moscow Public Oversight Commission report on the death of Hermitage lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is essential reading.  It is an absolutely devastating, criminal, and impossible to ignore situation.  See the Hermitage press release over here for extensive excerpts from the report.

But Monday’s commission report goes further than that, charging that authorities deliberately “organized physical and psychological pressure on Sergei Magnitsky.” It cites frequent changes of jails and cells, as well as conditions that amounted to “torture” even by the standards of Russia’s harsh prisons. Citing case records, the panel also dismissed claims by investigators and police that Mr. Magnitsky hadn’t filed complaints about the conditions and lack of medical care.

“The behavior of the medical personnel at Butyrskaya prison wasn’t’negligence.’ It wasn’t just ‘not providing medical assistance,’ butthe question can be raised of violating the right to life,” the reportsaid. Prosecutors at present are investigating possible charges ofnegligence and failure to provide medical aid in the case.

Some members of the panel went further in comments at a newsconference. One, Zoya Svetova, said, “as horrible as it sounds, thiswas an intentional death.” Another, Andrei Babushkin, said Mr.Magnitsky was murdered in order to conceal the fraud that he hadexposed.

Mr. Magnitsky, who was in good health when he was jailed in November2008, was diagnosed in a prison hospital in July with gall stones. Butless than a week before he was to undergo a follow-up ultrasound thatcould have led to him having surgery, he was transferred to Butyrskaya,where that medical service wasn’t available. After months of beingdenied care, he was transferred back to the hospital at the otherprison by ambulance. He died there within hours, in a holding celldespite a diagnosis of acute pancreatitis, the report said.

Panel members accused prison officials of attempting to obstructtheir investigation. “It was clear that we were lied to and lied to alot,” said Valery Borshchev, head of the commission, which visited allthe cells where Mr. Magnitsky was held and interviewed officials whodealt with him.

A spokesman for the prison service said he hadn’t received thereport and couldn’t comment. Interior Ministry officials couldn’t bereached.