Russia postpones hearing in posthumous Magnitsky case

Sergei Magnitsky grave in Moscow, 7 Dec 12
Image caption Sergei Magnitsky's death triggered an outcry from human rights activists

A court in Moscow has postponed a pre-trial hearing in the case against the late Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

The court ruled that the hearing, due initially on Monday, would now be held on 4 March. Mr Magnitsky's relatives regard the unusual case as illegal.

Mr Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 after accusing officials of tax fraud but was later himself accused of those crimes.

His death in custody a year later has led to a diplomatic dispute between Russia and the United States.

Last year the US passed the Magnitsky Act, which blacklists Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a Russian law barring Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

The case is believed to be the first time in Soviet or Russian history that a defendant will have been tried posthumously.

Mr Magnitsky represented London-based Hermitage Capital Management. He uncovered what he described as a web of corruption involving Russian tax officials, including the alleged theft of more than $200m (£125m).

After reporting the allegations to the authorities, he was himself detained on suspicion of aiding tax evasion.

US-born fund manager Bill Browder, who runs Hermitage Capital, spearheaded efforts in the US to put pressure on Russia over the Magnitsky case. Mr Browder was a major investor in Russia before Mr Magnitsky's arrest.

In December, a Moscow court acquitted a prison doctor accused of negligence over Mr Magnitsky's death.

He had pancreatitis, but an investigation by Russia's presidential council on human rights concluded that he had been severely beaten and denied medical treatment.

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