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article imageRussia tries to prosecute a man who's been dead since 2009

By Layne Weiss     Jan 28, 2013 in World
Moscow - Russia has adjourned the trial against Sergei Magnitsky until February 18. The weird part? Mr. Magnitsky has been dead for over three years.
In 2011, Russia's high court ruled that posthumous hearings were allowed in order for relatives to clear their loved ones' names, The Associated Press reports.
In this case, however, Sergei Magnitsky's family didn't want another trial, but prosecutors re-filed charges against the deceased lawyer anyway. They actually reopened the case just days after the ruling to allow posthumous hearings.
The trial was postponed Monday as Magnitsky's legal team refused to participate twice after all lawyers involved were urged by Magnitsky's mother to boycott the "illegal" hearing, The Telegraph reports. Since the case reopened, Sergei's mother has filed 25 appeals asking for it to be closed, The Associated Press reports.
The trial has been moved to February 18, but Magnitsky's legal team remained steadfast in their refusal to participate, so the court had to appoint a legal team to represent him.
Sergei Magnitsky died at 37 in a Russian jail, The New York Times reports. Authorities said he was being held on tax evasion and died of a heart attack, but his supporters said he was in jail for investigating "corrupt" Interior Ministry officials in a fraudulent tax case and that he died because he was beaten by police officers and denied medical care.
Before his death, Magnistky himself said he was denied medical care despite excruciating abdominal pains. He also wrote that police officers tried to make a deal with him where they would free him if we were willing to incriminate one of his clients. "When I repeatedly rejected these proposals," Mr. Magnitsky wrote, "the conditions of my detention became worse and worse."
It was eventually brought to light that Magnitsky died of untreated pancreatitis, The Telegraph reports. An investigation into his death was launched.
In late 2012, a Russian court cleared prison doctor Dmitry Kratov of negligence in Sergei Magnitsky's death. Dr. Kratov was the only person charged in the lawyer's death. Several others were accused of being involved, but were never charged.
London-based investor William Browder, a client of Sergei Magntisky at the time of his arrest, is being tried in absentia. He has not been allowed in Russia since 2005, The AP reports.
In 2008, Magnitsky claimed that an organized crime group had worked with Interior Ministry officials" to claim a $230 million tax rebate through illegally obtained subsidiaries of Hermitage Capital Management," the company of William Bowder.
Magnitsky was then arrested by the same officials he had claimed were engaging in illegal activities, and he had and Browder were accused of evading $16.8 million in taxes.
"To try a dead man is beyond evil," Browder told The AP via a telephone interview Monday. "This is a politically directed prosecution. Putin and Medvedev have both directed, have sent the instructions for the outcome of this case."
Last month, US President Barack Obama signed a law blacklisting any Russian officials implicated in the death of Sergei Magntisky from entering the United States. The law is known as the "Magnitsky Act."
In response, an angered President Putin signed a ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian children.
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