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U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (Democrat-Maryland) says he expects a "macho" response from Moscow should Congress pass legislation punishing Russian officials implicated in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

"We fully expect that there will be some reactions that are going to try to show [Russian] machoness rather than dealing with [human rights]," the senator said on April 19 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.

Cardin last year introduced legislation that would ban visas for and freeze the assets of some 60 Russians connected with the Magnitsky case, which has become an international symbol of Russia's human rights failings.

The lawyer died in jail in 2009 at the age of 37 after implicating top Russian officials in an alleged scheme to defraud the government.

Independent investigations found that Magnitsky was repeatedly denied medical care and beaten before his death.

Moscow is currently prosecuting only one low-level prison official in the case, amid allegations of a cover-up.

Independent of the legislation, the U.S. State Department last year imposed visa bans on implicated Russian officials.

In response, Moscow compiled a blacklist of U.S. officials it says violated the rights of two Russian citizens -- a suspected international arms trafficker and a convicted drug smuggler.

Earlier this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the enactment of the Magnitsky bill would damage U.S.-Russian relations.

The bill, which has strong bipartisan support, may be voted on as early as this spring.

Its passage has become linked to repealing the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, Cold War-era legislation that has functioned as a symbol of Washington's opposition to Moscow's rights violations.

The Obama administration has pushed for Jackson-Vanik's repeal, which imposes trade restrictions, in order to boost U.S. commerce with Russia.

Legislation on Magnitsky similar to the U.S. bill is also pending in Canada, the United Kingdom, and a number of other Western countries.
Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov recovers from his beating in a Baku hospital.
BAKU -- Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR has condemned the beating of an award-winning journalist but accused him of provoking the violence.

Prominient Azerbaijani journalist Idrak Abbasov was hospitalized on April 18 after he and several other journalists were assaulted by SOCAR security personnel.

The journalists were attacked while filming a confrontation that erupted when SOCAR employees were demolishing houses in the village of Sulutepe on the outskirts of the capital, Baku.

SOCAR legal department chief Eldar Orujev told journalists on April 19 that investigations had been launched into the incident.

He added that Abbasov was interested in the confrontation as he and his relatives had illegally raised houses in Sulutepe and provoked local residents to come out against the company's employees.

The OSCE and international human rights groups condemned the Abbasov beating.

With reporting by AFP

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