Prison officials investigated over lawyer's death

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The Independent Online

Investigators began a criminal investigation into two prison officials yesterday over their suspected role in the death of a jailed lawyer, who claimed to have uncovered a £145m tax fraud by corrupt Russian officers.

It is the first time officials have specifically identified anyone in relation to the death of Sergei Magnitsky in November 2009, after the pancreatitis he developed in prison went untreated. But the announcement did little to appease the lawyer's supporters, who accuse the authorities of failing to investigate the real culprits.

Russian officials had previously insisted that Mr Magnitsky died of heart failure, before backtracking in early July to say the doctors were likely to blame.

The inquiry would focus on Larisa Litvinova, chief physician at the Butyrskaya prison in Moscow, and the jail's deputy chief Dmitry Kratov. They are suspected of negligence that led to death.

Investors working in Russia have said the lawyer's death highlights corruption in the judicial system and presents a litmus test for President Dmitry Medvedev's pledge to cement the rule of law in the country.