Russian Justice: Sergei Magnitsky’s Torture and Murder in Pre-Trial Detention

After a 37-year old lawyer Sergei Magnitsky testified against Russian Interior Ministry officers for their role in embezzling $230 million from the state, he was arrested in 2008 and placed in pre-trial detention by those same officers he accused of crimes. In an attempt to force Magnitsky to withdraw his testimony, these officers intentionally tortured and ultimately murdered him.
Sergei Magnitsky.jpg
Held for 11 months without trial, he was, as reported by The Telegraph, "denied visits from his family" and "forced into increasingly squalid cells." He developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis, for which he was given inadequate medical treatment during his incarceration. Surgery was ordered in June, but never performed; detention center chief Ivan P. Prokopenko later indicated that he "...did not consider Magnitsky sick... Prisoners often try to pass themselves off as sick, in order to get better conditions."

On 16 November 2009, eight days before he would have had to have been released if he were not brought to trial, Magnitsky died for reasons attributed first by prison officials as a "rupture to the abdominal membrane" and later to a heart attack. It later emerged that Magnitsky had complained of worsening stomach pain for five days prior to his death and that by the 15th was vomiting every three hours, with a visibly swollen stomach. On the day of his death, the prison physician, believing he had a chronic disease, sent him by ambulance to and later transferred to Matrosskaya Tishina prison's medical unit equipped to help him, but the surgeon there — who described Magnitsky as "agitated, trying to hide behind a bag and saying people were trying to kill him" — prescribed only a painkiller, leaving him for psychiatric evaluation. He was found dead in his cell a little over two hours later. 

According to Ludmila Alekseeva, leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Magnitsky had died from being beaten and tortured by several officers of the Russian Ministry of Interior. The official death certificate stated "closed cerebral cranial injury" as the cause of death (in addition to the other conditions mentioned above) and the post-mortem examination showed numerous bruises and /ounds on legs and hands. Another post-mortem from 2011 summarized the death as being caused by "traumatic application of the blunt hard object (objects)" as confirmed by "abrasions, ecchymomas, blood effusions into the soft tissues".

Journalist Owen Matthews described his suffering in Moscow's Butyrka prison.
According to [Magnitsky's] heartbreaking prison diary, investigators repeatedly tried to persuade him to give testimony against Hermitage and drop the accusations against the police and tax authorities. When Magnitsky refused, he was moved to more and more horrible sections of the prison, and ultimately denied the medical treatment which could have saved his life. 

Sergei left his own detailed hand-written account of the pressure and suffering he experienced at the hands of his captors. His complaints about his treatment read like a modern-day Gulag Archipelago. The persecution of Sergei Magnitsky by state officials he accused by means of torture and murder is documented in independent findings by Russian and international human rights organizations, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, the US Department of State, the US Government Helsinki Commission, and many others. read more:

Justice for Sergei Magnitsky Website
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

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