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The Magnitsky Letters

magnit120709.jpgThe Associated Press has obtained exclusive access to a series of letters written by Sergei Magnitsky, the Hermitage lawyer who died in prison after being denied medical treatment, to his mother.  Heartbreaking reading.

Nataliya Magnitskaya said she was only allowed to visit him once at Butyrskaya during his 11-month imprisonment and found him emaciated and exhausted. On Nov. 17, as she brought him a parcel of food, officials told her he had died 12 hours earlier.

“Living conditions here are worse than anywhere I’ve been before,” read one of Magnitsky’s letters, postmarked Aug. 13. The prison is a 30-minute drive from his home, but it took two months to arrive, she said.

Prison censors blotted out a few phrases in some letters — but they are still legible. In one of those passages, Magnitsky describes prison walks: inmates were taken to a small concrete courtyard with no grass or trees.

She said Magnitsky “wasn’t asking for some luxury. … He was merely asking for what he was entitled to.”

“He was so young. I still can’t believe he’s dead,” said the57-year-old teacher, standing in a frigid Moscow park. She has beenliving with Magnitsky’s wife and sons, ages 8 and 17, during most ofhis detention.