Irish parliament to drop Magnitsky List plan after warning

The late Sergei Magnitsky, who died in custody in Russia while investigating corruption (image from 2006) Sergei Magnitsky is seen here in a photo from 2006

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The Irish parliament is set to limit its reaction to the Magnitsky affair to a statement of concern, after Russia warned against US-style sanctions.

A motion by its joint foreign affairs committee has been redrafted to say Dublin will seek reassurances from Moscow on its respect for human rights.

Members had advocated blacklisting Russian officials linked to the death of whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky.

Moscow then linked any Irish sanctions to adoptions of Russian children.

Its ambassador to Dublin, Maxim Peshkov, wrote a letter to the foreign affairs committee of the Oireachtas (the Irish houses of parliament) on 11 March saying Russia might stop adoptions by Irish parents if parliament endorsed the Magnitsky Act.

Russia banned Americans from adopting Russian children soon after the US Congress passed the legislation in December.

MPs in several EU countries are considering following the American example.

'Not blackmail'

Pat Breen, chairman of the cross-party foreign affairs committee, said after the motion was revised he "wouldn't regard as blackmail" the failure by the committee to support sanctions.

"We have reached a motion that fulfils our obligations on human rights," he was quoted as saying by the Irish Times.

Senator Jim Walsh, who proposed the original motion, said he was "disappointed we didn't have some sanctions" before adding: "But politics is about achieving compromise."

Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal group (ALDE) in the European Parliament, condemned the Russian letter earlier.

"Russian foreign policy once again is showing its ugly face," he said in a press release.

Sergei Magnitsky was working as an auditor at a Moscow law firm when he discovered what he said was a massive fraud by tax officials and police officers.

He is said to have uncovered the alleged theft of $230m (£150m). After reporting it to the authorities, he was himself detained in 2008 on suspicion of aiding tax evasion, and died in custody on 16 November 2009 at the age of 37.

His colleagues at the firm, London-based Hermitage Capital Management, say the case against him was fabricated to make him halt his investigations.

Magnitsky reportedly became the first person to be tried posthumously in Russia when proceedings for tax evasion opened last month.

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