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US Hits 12 Russians with Sanctions for Rights Violations

FILE - A woman holds a placard with a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky during an unauthorized rally in central Moscow December 15, 2012. The placard reads "Died fighting a system of thievery."
The United States has slapped sanctions on 12 Russians, including those suspected of involvement in the 2009 prison death of a Russian lawyer who had leveled accusations of a massive Russian tax fraud.

The U.S. State Department, in a statement Tuesday, linked the sanctions to the detention, prison abuse and death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 in a notorious Moscow prison.

The State Department says the designees are banned from entering the United States and that their U.S. assets had been frozen.

Magnitsky worked as an auditor for the London-based firm Hermitage Capital Investment, when he uncovered an alleged scam by Russian police, gangsters and bankers to take over three Hermitage companies and then illegally collect $230 million in tax refunds.

After making his allegations public, Magnitsky was himself arrested on tax evasion charges. In poor health from his ordeal, he died in prison at age 37, after 11 months in detention without trial.

The widely publicized case came to embody long-standing Western allegations of widespread prison abuse in Russia, and led to a fresh dispute between Washington and Moscow. In 2012, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation known as the Magnitsky Act, which aims to penalize those connected to the lawyer's death.

In response to the U.S. legislation, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.

Some reporting by Reuters.