Russia drops charges against jail doctor over death of anti-corruption lawyer


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The Independent Online

As relatives of Sergei Magnitsky commemorated what would have been the Russian lawyer's 40th birthday on Sunday, it emerged that authorities had dropped a negligence case against one of the doctors who treated him in prison.

Mr Magnitsky, a lawyer for the investment fund Hermitage Capital, died in a Russian jail in 2009 after he was accused of perpetrating a fraud he claimed to have uncovered. He died after being refused proper treatment for a pancreas condition. An official report suggested he was beaten before he died. But only two medical staff have been charged with any crimes and the Russian authorities have even begun a posthumous prosecution of Mr Magnitsky.

His lawyers say Larisa Litvinova, the doctor in charge of Mr Magnitsky at the Butyrka prison hospital, refused him basic tests and treatment that could have saved his life. She had been charged with negligence, but the case has been dropped, leaving one other prison doctor as the only person facing charges in the case. "Over two years after he died, not a single person has been prosecuted for torture, murder, or the fraud that he uncovered," William Browder, the head of Hermitage Capital, said.

Mr Browder is pushing for the US and other countries to adopt the Magnitsky Act, which would impose financial sanctions and deny visas to 60 Russian officials believed to be complicit in the case.

The idea of imposing sanctions on complicit officials gained traction after a number of US senators spoke out in favour of enacting the Magnitsky Act at the same time as removing the Jackson-Vanik provision, a Soviet-era trade act that imposes sanctions on Russia. It was implemented in response to the Soviet Union's treatment of Jews.

In response to visa bans on those officials involved in the Magnitsky case, Russia has criticised Washington's "meddling" in its affairs and has drawn up its own list of "undesirable" US citizens.