This is horrible, horrible news, especially considering the circumstances behind the arrest of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer involved in the William Browder and Hermitage Capital affair (this saga of state corruption is best told in a ten minute film released by the defense). We already knew the lengths to which Russian prosecutors can go in forcing prisoners to manufacture false testimony, but this terrible death is beyond outrageous. Let’s be clear that the circumstances of the death are currently unclear, but for a man who should never have been in prison in the first place, this incident requires a very serious and strong response.
A lawyer for investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, jailed on tax charges related to his work for the fund, has died in custody, Irina Dudukina, spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee of Russia’s Interior Ministry said Tuesday.
She provided no further details, saying a release would be issued later. Sergei Magnitsky and his colleagues had accused authorities of denying him necessary medical treatment in prison.
Mr. Magnitsky, a 37-year-old partner at Moscow firm FirestoneDuncan, was jailed nearly a year ago on charges of tax evasion relatedto his work for Hermitage. At a court hearing on extending hisdetention in September, he complained that he had been denied medicaltreatment for weeks for serious stomach pancreatic illnesses that hehadn’t suffered from before his imprisonment. He also complained ofinhumane conditions — including the absence of toilet, hot water andwindows — at the Butyrskaya jail where he was then being held.
“They held him for 11 months, asking him to fabricate testimonyagainst Hermitage,” said Jamison Firestone, managing partner ofFirestone Duncan. “The more he refused, the worse his conditionsbecame.”