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Friends and relatives pay their last respects to lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in pretrial detention in 2009.
WASHINGTON -- Two U.S. senators have urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reconsider allowing the visit of two Russian officials allegedly involved in the prosecution and prison death of anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

In letter dated November 8 that was obtained by RFE/RL, Senators Benjamin Cardin (Democrat-Maryland) and Roger Wicker (Republican-Mississippi) urged Clinton to “immediately review any visa applications” submitted by Russian Interior Ministry Generals Tatiana Gerasimova and Nikolai Shelepanov.

The officials are due to arrive in Washington early next week to discuss Moscow’s record of enforcing intellectual property rights, which U.S. trade officials have described as a major stumbling block to deeper economic cooperation.

The senators told Clinton that Gerasimova and Shelepanov are "involved in the cynical and sweeping cover-up of the torture and murder of Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky as well as the corruption he exposed."

"While safeguarding intellectual property is a laudable goal and one that we share, we are troubled at the prospect of collaborating on this or any issue with those whose good faith and goodwill are so seriously and publicly compromised," the letter says.

Magnitsky was arrested by authorities in 2008 after a case he was working on for the London-based Hermitage Capital Management implicated top officials from Russia's Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, and other agencies in a massive scheme to defraud the government.

The 37-year-old lawyer died in November 2009 after nearly a year in pretrial detention, during which he was repeatedly denied medical care and physically abused.

The senators' letter says that the Russian officials' visit to Washington would be "a bitter irony given the proximity to the second anniversary of Magnitsky's death."

Speaking on the floor of the Senate on the day the letter was submitted, Wicker described Magnitsky's ordeal and urged the Obama administration not to ignore Russia's troubling rights record in its dealings with Moscow.

"We in the Senate should be standing in support of the principled, fearless Russian citizens who have the courage to expose these corrupt abuses -- [and] to expose the brutality and thuggery of their own Russian government," he said. "I urge President [Barack] Obama [and] I urge Secretary Clinton to make human rights and [the] rule of law in Russia a central part of our efforts to reset bilateral relations."

In July, under pressure from Congressmen, the State Department imposed visa bans on dozens of Russian officials connected to the Magnitsky case -- a move that provoked the ire of Moscow.

Twenty-five U.S. senators have also sponsored a bill in the Senate that would both ban visas for and freeze the assets of some 60 Russian officials connected to the case.

-- Richard Solash
Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu
MINSK -- Former Belarusian presidential candidate Uladzimer Nyaklyaeu has been barred from traveling abroad to receive medical treatment, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The parole inspection board in Minsk's Lenin district today rejected Nyaklyaeu's request to allow him to go to "a Western country" for medical treatment.

The official explanation of the refusal said that "there are well-trained medical experts in Belarus who are capable of providing professional treatment."

Nyaklyaeu told RFE/RL that he will travel anyway, because "I consider myself a free man and have never recognized the court's verdict against me."

Nyaklyaeu was given a two-year suspended sentence on May 20 for his role in a protest in Minsk on December 19 by some 15,000 people following the announcement of incumbent President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's reelection.

Nyaklyaeu was severely beaten at the demonstration and hospitalized with a concussion and other injuries before being arrested. He was placed under house arrest until his trial started in May.

In September, a Minsk court barred Nyaklyaeu from leaving the city without written permission and from traveling outside Belarus for the duration of his two-year suspended sentence.

It also barred him from attending public gatherings and meetings, ordered him to present himself at a police station once a week, and told him to stay home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Read more in Belarusian here

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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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