MOSCOW, December 24 (RIA Novosti) – Russian prosecutors asked a Moscow court on Monday to drop charges against the former prison official accused of negligence leading to the 2009 death of whistle-blowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
The prison official, Dmitry Kratov, is the former deputy head of Moscow’s Butyrka prison, where 37-year-old Hermitage Capital lawyer Magnitsky was kept for 11 months before being moved to Matrosskaya Tishina prison shortly before his death.
Magnitsky was arrested in November 2008, on tax evasion charges, after he exposed what he believed was a $230 million tax fraud carried out by Russian officials. While in jail he suffered from pancreatitis that was left untreated and grew progressively worse. He died in November 2009, of heart failure, according to prison officials.
But an independent inquiry ordered by the Kremlin’s human rights council revealed that Magnitsky had been severely beaten hours before his death.
The prosecution maintained at the Monday court hearing that Kratov was not responsible for the lawyer’s death because he had not been notified about Magnitsky's health condition.
Larisa Litvinova, the head doctor at Butyrka, was also charged in connection with the case, but the charges were dropped in April because the statute of limitations had expired.
They are the only two people to have faced charges in the high-profile case.
The lawyer’s death ultimately led to passage in the US earlier this month of the Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions against the Russian officials implicated human rights abuses.
But the state argued at the hearing on Monday that Magnitsky died as a result of pre-existing health conditions, not the actions of officials identified in criminal complaints filed by Magnitsky’s relatives.
The court will issue a decision in Kratov’s case on Friday.
The lawyer for Magnitsky’s family, Dmitry Kharitonov, filed a petition on Monday calling for charges to be leveled against prison doctor Alexandra Gauss.
Gauss, a doctor at the Matrosskaya Tishina detention facility where Magnitsky died, was earlier questioned as witness in the case.
She testified that Magnitsky exhibited “inadequate” behavior and could have inflicted the injuries himself. Kharitonov maintains that Gauss didn’t provide Magnitsky with needed medical assistance.