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Magnitsky verdict: trial denounced as 'the height of absurdity'

The posthumous trial of the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky has been denounced as the “height of absurdity” after a court in Moscow pronounced Mr Magnitsky guilty of tax fraud offences earlier today.

Magnitsky died in detention in 2009 in circumstances suggesting that this was the result of torture or other ill-treatment, yet was put on trial by the Russian authorities after his death under special provisions in Russian law. These allow the family of a deceased person, who died while still under investigation, to request that the investigation is completed and the deceased person rehabilitated.

The Russian Prosecutor’s Office used the provision to put Magnitsky himself on trial, despite the lawyer’s family consistently objecting to this and refusing to testify as witnesses or attend the trial. Because of their refusal, a lawyer was appointed by the state to represent Magnitsky’s family in court. Even though the state-appointed lawyer himself raised concerns that the case was unacceptable, the court pressed ahead with the case.

Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said:

“Today’s verdict is the height of absurdity.

“The posthumous prosecution was always farcical, but unfortunately also deeply sinister.

“The trial of a deceased person and the forcible involvement of his relatives has set a dangerous precedent that could open a whole new chapter in Russia’s worsening human rights record.”

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