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U.S. Pledges To Hold Russians Responsible On Anniversary Of Magnitsky's Death

A portrait of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison, is held by his mother, Natalia Magnitskaya, as she speaks during an interview.
A portrait of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison, is held by his mother, Natalia Magnitskaya, as she speaks during an interview.

Marking eight years since whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail, the United States has pledged to continue enforcing legislation imposing sanctions on Russians over human rights abuses.

"We honor the memory of Sergei Magnitsky, who died on November 16, 2009, while in custody in a Moscow prison," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement late on November 15.

"An investigation by Russia's Presidential Human Rights Council found that Magnitsky had been severely beaten in prison, and members of the council said his death resulted from beatings and torture by police officials."

"Magnitsky uncovered a vast tax-fraud scheme perpetrated by Russian officials, and was imprisoned by those whose crimes he uncovered," Nauert added.

"Russian authorities have failed to hold those responsible for his death accountable and instead, in recent months appear to be increasingly propagating conspiracy theories designed to distract attention from the crime," she said.

"In honor of Magnitsky's extraordinary courage, we continue to support efforts to hold those responsible for his treatment in prison and subsequent death accountable," she said.

Nauert said those efforts include implementation of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russians believed to have been involved in persecuting Magnitsky as well as on other suspected human rights abusers.

Magnitsky was employed by U.S.-born British financier William Browder when he was arrested and accused by Russian law enforcement officials of carrying out the same alleged $230 million tax-fraud scheme that he helped uncover.

Enactment of the 2012 U.S. sanctions law three years after Magnitsky's death was one of a series of events that ushered in an era of increasing tensions between the United States and Russia.

Moscow responded by barring Americans from adopting Russian children.

Russia took the unusual step of trying Magnitsky after his death, and he was convicted of tax evasion in 2013 after a posthumous trial that was widely criticized by human rights activists and Western governments.

Browder was tried in absentia and sentenced to nine years in prison in the case, which deepened U.S. and European Union concerns over human rights and the rule of law in Russia under President Vladimir Putin.

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