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Moscow Theater Stages Last Days Of Detained Lawyer

The Teatr.doc production of "One Hour And 18 Minutes" in Moscow.

The Teatr.doc production of "One Hour And 18 Minutes" in Moscow.

A theater in Moscow has staged a play based on the last days of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose death in prison last year caused an outcry at home and abroad, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Magnitsky, 37, a lawyer on the staff of the Hermitage Capital investment fund, died in Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina detention center in November 2009 after implicating several government figures in a $230 million tax-fraud case.

According to detention center officials, the cause of Magnitsky's death was a heart attack.

But members of the Public Commission that monitors human rights within the penitentiary system concluded that Magnitsky was under permanent psychological and physical pressure. According to the commission, investigators tried to compel him to give false testimony against his clients and refused to provide him with medical assistance.

The play that opened on June 5, titled "One Hour and 18 Minutes," is based on Magnitsky's diary detailing his experiences during nearly a year spent in detention awaiting trial for alleged tax evasion.

His diary entries were projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage. All the characters, investigators, judges, guards, and medical personnel were identified by their real names. The play, by the Teatr.doc company, concludes with all the officials implicated in Magnitsky's death facing trial.

On June 4, the theater performed a short extract from the play titled "The Reconstruction of Pain," followed by a public discussion.

The play's director, Mikhail Ugarov, advocated during the discussion further developing the genre of documentary theater in Russia.

He said "One Hour and 18 Minutes" will be staged in St. Petersburg soon.

The leader of the Public Commission that investigated Magnitsky's death, Valery Borshchev, said the characters played on stage fully reminded him of the real people involved in the tragedy.

Magnitsky's mother, Natalya Magnitskaya, who was present at the discussion said the play was important for her personally, since at least on stage she saw the people responsible for her son's death facing trial. She expressed the hope that there will be a real trial.

The Magnitsky case led to the replacement of the leadership of Russia's Federal Corrections Service (FSIN).

It also led to legal reforms that ended pretrial detention for people suspected of economic crimes.