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Monday, May 30, 2011

Police Investigator Is Cleared in Death of Russian Awaiting Trial

Police Investigator Is Cleared in Death of Russian Awaiting Trial
The New York Times by Ellen Barry - May 30, 2011

MOSCOW — Russia’s Investigative Committee said Monday that prosecutors had cleared a police investigator of any wrongdoing in the case of Sergei L. Magnitsky, whose death in pre-trial detention is viewed as a test of country’s law enforcement and judicial systems. Mr. Magnitsky, 37, who had been arrested after accusing police investigators of a huge tax fraud, died in a prison clinic after complaining for days about acute abdominal pain and untreated pancreatitis. Central decisions about Mr. Magnitsky’s medical treatment were made by Oleg F. Silchenko, the lead investigator in the case against him, who transferred him to a prison with minimal medical facilities despite a serious diagnosis. He also authorized Mr. Magnitsky’s arrest on tax evasion charges, detained him for 11 months as a flight risk and refused repeated requests for a follow-up ultrasound that had been prescribed by a doctor. Mr. Silchenko has long been viewed as the most likely target of a prosecution. William F. Browder, a prominent investor in Russia’s stock market who had employed Mr. Magnitsky as outside counsel when he was arrested, said that Monday’s announcement suggested that no one ultimately would be held responsible for Mr. Magnitsky’s death. “What this signals is that the administration has finally taken a position, which is that they are going to whitewash the whole thing,” he said. “There were all kinds of conflicting statements, but now it seems they have decided on a party line, which is that nobody did anything wrong.” The statement from the Investigative Committee makes a point, however, of noting that its own investigators are still working on a separate inquiry into medical aspects of Mr. Magnitsky’s death. That inquiry, which has been extended until Aug. 24, aims to learn the circumstances of his death and whether it was related to his detention and living conditions. An independent commission ordered by the Kremlin, whose preliminary results were made public in late April, found that the charges against Mr. Magnitsky were fabricated and that police investigators whom he had accused of corruption were improperly involved in his prosecution. Valery V. Borshchev, the head of the commission, said that a full report would be submitted to President Dmitri A. Medvedev during the summer, and that the president could demand a new investigation. “It is in his power,” Mr. Borshchev said. “This is not the end yet.”

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