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Russian Investigation Into Magnitsky's Death Dropped

Sergei Magnitsky's relatives and supporters say he was beaten and medically neglected while in jail, which led to his death in a Moscow detention center a year after he was detained.
Russia's Investigative Committee has dropped its investigation into the death of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The committee posted a statement on its official website on March 19 saying Magnitsky was placed legally in pretrial detention and died there from heart complications in 2009. The committee said there was no evidence of a crime.

In 2008, Magnitsky, who worked for the London-based Hermitage Capital Investments, implicated top officials from Russia's Interior Ministry, Federal Tax Service, Federal Security Service, and other agencies in a $230 million scheme to defraud the government.

The officials Magnitsky accused of taking part in the tax-refund fraud initiated proceedings against him on tax-evasion charges, leading to his arrest.

Magnitsky's relatives and supporters say he was beaten and medically neglected while in jail, which led to his death in a Moscow detention center a year after he was detained.

In November 2012, the Russian authorities charged Magnitsky posthumously with tax evasion. The lawyer's trial is expected to resume on March 22. His former boss, Hermitage Capital investments CEO William Browder, remains outside Russia and was charged in absentia.

Browder told RFE/RL the Investigative Committee's statement was not a surprise to him.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin "made it very clear that basically, on his instructions, Sergei Magnitsky died of natural causes. That was his position and from that statement the rest of the government apparatus followed through, so this is just the result of basically a politically motivated intervention by Putin to change the narrative of what really happened to Sergei."

Browder Charged

Earlier this month, Russian authorities filed an additional charge against Browder. He was accused of illegally purchasing shares of the Russian gas giant, Gazprom.

The new charges came after the pro-Kremlin NTV television channel aired a program attacking Browder for allegedly working for the British secret service and standing to gain from the "mysterious" deaths of his employees.

Browder said that all the charges were politically motivated and that it appeared there is no chance for justice for Magnitsky inside Russia.

"The most important thing we're doing in regards to the murder of Sergei is that a case has been filed by Sergei's mother at the European Court of Human Rights and that case is going directly after the Russian Federation for his loss of life, his torture, and various other things," he said.

"And that case will surely bring fault to the Russian Federation for what they did to Sergei and that is a court that is outside of the Russian jurisdiction, where there is clearly some chance of justice."

Magnitsky's relatives say they will appeal the Russian Investigative Committee's decision to stop investigations of the lawyer's death.

The case has caused tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Last year, the United States passed legislation to punish Russian officials linked to Magnitsky's death and other human rights abuses. Russia later introduced a ban on all adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens.
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