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Magnitsky Trial Quickly Adjourned

March 11, 2013

A Moscow court has opened then immediately adjourned proceedings in an unprecedented, posthumous trial of a whistle-blowing lawyer who died in custody more than three years ago.

Sergei Magnitsky's death sparked an international outcry and caused tensions between Moscow and Washington, which regarded it as further evidence of egregious rights violations and a lack of sufficient rule of law in Russia.

Magnitsky, a lawyer for the London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital, was arrested shortly after accusing state officials of a $230 million theft.

On March 11, the judge in the Tverskoi district court quickly adjourned the trial until March 22 to give the court-appointed defense team more time to prepare.

Magnitsky's family says the case against him is fabricated and has refused to participate in the trial.

He died in 2009 in pretrial detention after nearly a year in jail on suspicion of tax fraud.

'Dangerous Precedent'

Last year, the United States passed legislation, known as the Magnitsky Act, to punish officials linked to his death as well as other Russians deemed to have committed rights abuses.

Following that, Russia introduced a ban on all adoptions of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has called Russia's first posthumous trial a "dangerous precedent."

Hermitage owner William Browder is being tried in absentia along with his
former employee.

Last week, fresh fraud charges were filed against Browder over dealings a decade ago in shares in the state-controlled gas giant Gazprom.

Browder has said the charges are an "absurdity" meant as revenge for his
campaigning for the U.S. rights legislation named after Magnitsky.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP


Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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