Rights activists release preliminary result of Magnitsky case probe

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President Dmitry Medvedev, who has received a preliminary version of the report on the investigation into the death of Sergei Magnitsky, says that there could be violations in the initial case.

­President Medvedev said at the council session that the Magnitsky case was a very sad one and such things must be prevented in future, though he also warned rights activists against choosing only well-publicized individuals as the subjects for their protection.  “Ailing people shouldn’t die in prison, if they get sick they must be released for treatment and then the court must determine their fate,” Medvedev said. “But I simply don’t want us to reduce the problems of a large number of people who are in prison, potentially on bad or unjust grounds, down to the problems of just one case,” the president added. 

The report by the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights regarding the case of Sergey Magnitsky was presented to the President after the council’s session in the Southern Russian city of Nalchik. Rights activist Mara Polyakova presented the report at the closed session, but before it even started, the chairman of the council, Mikhail Fedotov, said that the conclusions in the report generally matched those of the Investigative Committee – and these conclusions blamed prison doctors (and not the investigators) for failing to save the sick inmate by either refusing or failing to take the correct prophylactic steps despite the suspect’s poor health.

After the session ended, one of its participants, Svetlana Gannushkina, told the press that the report will be presented to the press on July 15. “We handed over our report to the president … we wanted him to be the first person to see it and hope that this would protect the authors as it is not safe for the people,” Gannushkina said.

However, the text of the preliminary report was already published this Wednesday on the Human Rights Council’s web-site, and the preliminary report blames the court and prison officials first, for unnecessarily putting Magnitsky in prison when different safeguards were available, and secondly, for moving him to another prison before conducting a routine medical check that could have saved the lawyer’s life.

After the report on Magnitsky case was released, first deputy head of the Investigation Department said that police investigators had been only taking lawful and justified decisions within the probe into the activities of the Hermitage Capital Management investment fund. “Within this case only lawful and justified decisions were taken that were later confirmed by the prosecutors and the court,” Tatyana Gerasimova said. “The Investigation Committee with the Interior Ministry has been voicing its position on the case for a year and a half, but no one wanted to listen to us. Today, I have nothing to add,” Gerasimova said.

Magnitsky, a thirty-seven-year-old lawyer who had worked for a major foreign investment fund and who died of complications due to heart disease in November 2009 while in a Moscow pre-trial detention center, was being investigated in a major tax evasion case.

The lawyer’s death caused outrage among the top managers of the Hermitage Capital Management fund where he had worked, especially from Bill Browder, the fund’s head. Investors launched a major PR campaign in Russia and abroad, accusing certain Russian officials from the police, the justice ministry, and the tax ministry of corruption and embezzlement.

Due to public interest, the Russian President had to intervene, ordering an additional probe into the case. As a result, several top officials from the justice ministry were sacked and Russian legislation was amended so that people suspected of economic crimes could not be put in prison before trial.