Moscow Court OKs Posthumous Prosecution of Dead Lawyer

A Moscow judge rejected a lawsuit from the mother of a whistleblower who died in Russian police custody to throw out the posthumous case against him.

On Tuesday, Judge Yulia Bobrova of Ostankinsky District Court of Moscow, rejected a lawsuit brought by the mother of Sergei Magnitsky, a former lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management who is being prosecuted for tax fraud following his death two years ago in police custody.


Magnitsky accused two Russian tax officials for perpetrating the largest tax fraud in Russia’s history, worth US$230 million, but the Russian government instead arrested him and held him without trial until he died.

“Today’s Moscow court decision opens a new chapter in the Russian legal history. The Moscow court formally allowed the prosecution of a dead man. This is a clear-cut breach of the European Human Rights Convention and Russia’s own Constitution,” said Hermitage Capital in a news release.

The Judge determined that Magnitsky’s mother and widow should continue to be treated as defendants in this case, as prosecutors have contended.

Magnitsky’s defense contends that the decision is a political tit-for-tat response to the US Governmnent’s decision to blacklist officials they believe involved in Magnitsky’s death.

The Deputy General Prosecutor in Magnitsky’s case is Viktor Grin, who is number 33 on the U.S. State Department’s list of officials banned from entering the country in July.  Three days after the US Helsinki Commission publicly announced that Grin was on the list, he gave the order to open a posthumous trial against Magnitsky.

Magnitsky’s family plans to appeal the decision, which Hermitage says “follows a trail of similar decisions denying Magnitsky and his family justice in all circumstances.”  They point to the fact that in 2011, 14 Russian judges refused all petitions from the Magnitsky family seeking access to his case file and to tissues samples for an independent medical examination.

Before Magnitsky’s death, 11 Russian judges rejected 40 petitions he filed about his unlawful arrest and repression by those he accused of corruption.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s Human Rights Council to investigated Magnitsky’s death and found that prison officials were responsible.

In pursuing the posthumous case against Sergei Magnitsky, Russian authorities have explicitly rejected the findings from the Russian President’s Human Rights Council.

“It is clear that no justice is possible and no investigation can be impartial as long as the investigation is controlled by the same officials and bodies who committed the crimes against him. To recognise Magnitsky’s innocence means that the law enforcement bodies have to recognize their own guilt. That seems very unlikely in Russia’s current environment,” said Hermitage Capital in the news release.