MOSCOW — A Moscow court plans to forge ahead with the trial of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, who died in jail in 2009.
Magnitsky’s family says the proceeding is politically motivated.
Magnitsky, a lawyer who worked for Russia’s largest Western investment firm, Hermitage Capital Management, claimed he'd uncovered a massive $230 tax fraud scheme involving Russian Interior Ministry officials.
Magnitsky, 37, was later arrested on corruption charges by the same officials he accused of tax fraud. He was held in jail without trial until he died of pancreatitis.
Magnitsky’s lawyers boycotted pre-trial hearings at the Tverskoi Court, but the state has appointed lawyers to defend the dead man.
Another lawyer, Alexander Molokhov, who says Magnitsky’s friends asked him to try to convince the court to appoint him as the Magnitsky lawyer, says the court refused to allow him to take part in the trial.
Molokhov says that he will appeal the refusal because it violates Magnitsky's constitutional right to defend himself.
Magnitsky’s family has filed 25 appeals asking for the case to be closed.
The trial is set to start March 11. It's believed to be the first time Russia has tried someone posthumously.
A new law regarding posthumous trials was passed in 2011, after an appeal by the family of a woman who was killed in a car crash with a top oil company executive.
Russian authorities have held no one responsible for Magnitsky's death.
Last year, jail doctor Dmitry Kratov was found not guilty of negligence in the death. An investigation by Russia’s Human Right’s Council found Magnitsky was denied treatment and severely beaten before he died.
Magnitsky’s case prompted U.S. lawmakers to pass the so-called Magnitsky Act, which bars Russian entry into the United States if they have been accused of human rights violations. In retaliation, Russia passed legislation banning Americans from adopting Russian children.