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Friends and relatives pay their last respects to lawyer Sergei Magnitsky at his funeral in November 2009.
An investigator from the Russian Interior Ministry has filed a petition to disbar a lawyer working in the prison-death case of Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky, an anticorruption lawyer, died in November 2009 after nearly a year in pretrial detention during which he was denied needed medical care. He was jailed after implicating top officials, including from the Interior Ministry, in a $230 million scheme to defraud the Russian government. His death was been met with international condemnation.

Alexander Antipov has been a legal advisor for the investment fund Hermitage Capital, Magnitsky’s former employer, since Magnitsky was arrested in 2008. According to a Hermitage Capital press release, Interior Ministry investigator Oleg Silchenko requested the Moscow City Bar strip Antipov of his right to practice law after he filed more than 20 complaints, some directed at Silchenko, regarding Magnitsky’s pretrial detention.

Silchenko has accused Antipov of falsifying documents, which Antipov denies.

In a December 2009 report by the independent Moscow Public Oversight Commission, Silchenko was blamed for "either negligence or a deliberate intent to conceal the motivation of his refusal to provide a medical examination" for Magnitsky. The report also blames Silchenko for initiating Magnitsky's transfer from the Matrosskaya Tishina prison to Butyrka, where he died, and for preventing Magnitsky from communicating with his family while he was in custody.

The attempt to disbar Antipov is the latest in what Hermitage Capital says is a program of official intimidation and interference. “It wasn’t enough for the Interior Ministry to drive six of our lawyers out of the country. It wasn’t enough that they tortured and killed Sergei Magnitsky in custody. Now they are going after the eighth lawyer," the press release says.

-- Richard Solash
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov ranks among the heads of the most repressive countries.
Freedom House, an international independent organization monitoring democracy and human rights, today released its report titled "Worst of the Worst: The World's Most Repressive Societies."

Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan joined countries Burma, North Korea, and Somalia on the list of the 10 worst countries in the world.

In a press release, the organization's director of advocacy, Paul Schriefer, said the list reflects Freedom House's views of "countries where individuals have almost no opportunity to enjoy the most fundamental rights; regimes whose people experience heavy penalties for independent thought or action, and where little or no opposition activity is permitted to exist."

A list of eight countries that scored only slightly better than the "worst of the worst" included Belarus, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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