This week, a Moscow court concluded its trial of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and his client William Browder, a British investor who accused government officials of colluding with organized crime. As expected, the court declared both guilty of tax evasion, but neither is going to prison. Browder, sentenced to nine years, is in the United Kingdom and Magnitsky died in government custody more than three years ago, at the age of 37.
NPR notes that “the tax evasion case against Magnitsky was brought by the very officials that he had accused.” Human rights groups that examined the case say Magnitsky “had been beaten and denied medical care” just before he died. The government closed its case against Magnitsky in 2009, after his death, but re-opened it after Browder publicized a “Magnitsky List: of corrupt Russian officials.
Any benefit the Russian government hoped to get from conducting the trial surely was offset by the international scorn it evoked. Allan Hogarth of Amnesty International U.K. called it the “height of absurdity,” A spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said, “Mr Magnitsky has been declared a criminal on the basis of unconvincing evidence, while neither the corruption scandal he uncovered nor the circumstances of his death have been clarified.”