Denial of Medical Care Common Blackmail Practice in Russian Prisons

<!-- IMAGE -->

Human-rights activists and colleagues of a 37-year-old attorney who died Tuesday in a Moscow prison say it is common practice in Russia to deny medical attention to people in custody as a way to force them to cooperate with prosecutors or corrupt officials. 

Russian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Irina Dudukina says attorney Sergei Magnitsky died of heart failure in pretrial detention. 

Magnitsky was a tax lawyer for the London-based Hermitage Capital Management Fund.  It was once the largest foreign investor on the Russian stock market. 

The Fund's Chief Executive, William Browder, waged an anti-corruption campaign in Russia to increase investor confidence.  The campaign led to allegations that Russian Interior Ministry officials colluded with tax authorities to steal $230 million from the national treasury. 

Magnitsky was then arrested on what Hermitage officials say were trumped up charges of tax evasion to force him to testify against Browder.  The American-born CEO, now a British subject, was expelled from Russia in 2005.  Browder's grandfather was the head of the American Communist Party.

Magnitsky developed problems with his pancreas and gall bladder as a result of what his American business associate, Jamison Firestone, described to VOA as filthy prison conditions.  They included a tiny cell with two other people, no hot water, a shower once a week, and a kitchen above a hole in the floor that served as a toilet. 

Firestone says the denial of medical care resulted in a slow motion killing by Interior Ministry officials seeking to hide corruption Magnitsky helped expose.  The Ministry is often referred to by its Russian abbreviation, MVD.

"The MVD increased pressure on Magnitsky by telling him he could no longer have his medicines and by not giving him the operation - and he died!" said Firestone.

The Moscow Prosecutor's office announced it will investigate Magnitsky's death.  But an office spokeswoman told VOA she had no time to comment on Firestone's allegations and asked that we call back later.  Her phone was put in fax mode for the remainder of the day.

An independent prisoner-rights activist in Moscow, Valeriy Borshov, says the law stipulates that seriously ill patients may be released on their own recognizance to get outside medical attention.  But he says they are often denied the right.

Borshov says investigators use the practice to pressure those under investigation and courts do not pay attention to their health.

The director of Russia's For Human Rights Organization, Lev Ponomarev, says medical attention has been withheld from other seriously ill inmates.  They include Vasily Aleksanyan, a former executive of the now defunct Yukos Oil Company, who needed cancer treatment in 2008.

Ponmorev says authorities would not release Aleksanyan.  He notes they did so only in response to massive social pressure and after the European Human Rights Court became involved in the businessman's case.

Senior Yukos officials were jailed on charges of fraud and tax evasion, which observers say were a pretext to steal the company and to silence its Chief Executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a vocal Kremlin critic.

Jamison Firestone says the Magnitsky case is a perfect opportunity for President Medvedev to carry out his much-touted anti-corruption drive.

"It would show the world, and not only the world, but it would also show the Russian people, that the Russian president is serious about fighting corruption, because it does not get any more corrupt than this," said Firestone.

Magnitsky leaves behind a wife and two young children. 


This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs