Play and Ambivalence Mark Second Anniversary of Sergei Magnitsky’s Death

Posted November 16th, 2011 at 1:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Supporters around the world are marking the second anniversary of the death in prison of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, but the Moscow Times says the date is being virtually ignored in Russia.

A spokesman for Magnitsky's employer, the British-based investment fund Hermitage Capital Management, told the Russian newspaper Wednesday that “the only official thing going on is the continuing cover-up by officials.”

Magnitsky was arrested in 2009 for what his supporters said were phony tax evasion charges. He died nearly a year later at the age of 37 after prison authorities withheld medical care and possible life-saving surgery.

He is being remembered with the play, One Hour Eighteen, which depicts the last moments before his death. The U.S. Helsinki Commission in Washington and Amnesty International's headquarters in London are among those hosting performances of the play.

Magnitsky accused Russian police officials of stealing Hermitage fund documents as part of a scheme to pocket hundreds of millions of dollars. Those same police officials arrested Magnitsky in 2008, charging him with tax evasion. He spent nearly a year in jail in poor health, denied the care that could possibly have saved his life.

Last month, Russia banned visits by certain U.S. officials in retaliation for Washington's blacklisting of Russian officials allegedly involved in Magnitsky's death. Russia's Foreign Ministry said it is blacklisting unspecified U.S. officials Moscow says were involved in abductions of terrorism suspects, torture of inmates at Guantanamo prison, and killings of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. law requires the State Department to deny visas to anyone accused of human rights violations, including torture.

The U.S. State Department Wednesday issued a statement honoring Magnitsky's memory and accusing Russian officials of failing to bring to justice those responsible for his death.