Skip to main content

Russian court convicts whistle-blowing lawyer after his death

By CNN Staff
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Fri July 12, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The verdict draws criticism from U.S. officials
  • The conviction of Sergei Magnitsky comes nearly four years after this death
  • Magnitsky died in a Moscow jail in 2009; the U.S. alleges he was beaten to death
  • His death prompted the United States to freeze the assets of certain Russian officials

(CNN) -- A whistle-blowing Russian lawyer whose death in custody strained U.S.-Russia relations was posthumously convicted in a tax case in a Moscow district court Thursday, state-run legal news agency RAPSI reported.

Sergei Magnitsky was convicted of tax evasion -- a verdict that comes after he died in 2009 in a Moscow detention center. The United States alleges Magnitsky was beaten to death in detention, a claim that Russian authorities reject.

Magnitsky's 2008 arrest and tax charges came after he uncovered Russia's largest known tax fraud in the form of rebates claimed by government officials who stole money from the state.

Former intelligence worker Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of documents outlining a massive effort by the NSA to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually all Americans. He says he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," he said. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over the leaks. Former intelligence worker Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of documents outlining a massive effort by the NSA to track cell phone calls and monitor the e-mail and Internet traffic of virtually all Americans. He says he just wanted the public to know what the government was doing. "Even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded," he said. Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia after initially fleeing to Hong Kong. He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, over the leaks.
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
Notable leakers and whistle-blowers Notable leakers and whistle-blowers

The U.S. State Department believes Magnitsky was persecuted because he "was blowing the whistle of confiscation of private assets and misuse of private assets," a State Department official said in a background briefing with reporters earlier this year.

U.S. lawmakers responded to Magnitsky's death by passing the December 2012 Magnitsky Act, a law that imposes visa bans on and freezes the assets of 16 Russian officials that U.S. officials allege were connected to his death, abuse or detention.

Thursday's verdict prompted more criticism from U.S. officials.

"The trial was a discredit to the efforts of those who continue to seek justice in his case," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "Despite widely publicized, credible evidence of criminal conduct resulting in Magnitsky's death, authorities have failed to prosecute those responsible.

"We continue to call for full accountability for all those responsible for Magnitsky's wrongful death, and we'll continue to support the efforts of those in Russia who seek to hold those individuals accountable."

Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Thursday that Magnitsky's posthumous conviction "is nothing short of a message to Russia's activist community of the repercussions of opposing the state."

Russia's lawmakers responded to the Magnitsky Act with their own list, slapping similar sanctions on 18 Americans it called rights violators.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last year called the Magnitsky Act "another anti-Russian law" and an "imperialist approach to foreign policy."

In December, Putin signed into law a measure that would ban the adoption of Russian children by U.S. families starting in 2014 -- a move also widely seen as retaliation for the Magnitsky Act.

CNN's Elise Labott, Jason Hanna, Alla Eshchenko, Laura Smith-Spark contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 2:26 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
A year ago, 1,000 garment workers died in the collapse of Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Here's a look at what has changed since then.
updated 12:53 AM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Focus is on the fish as U.S. President starts tour with visit to legendary Tokyo restaurant.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Fireworks are fantastic and human endeavor has its place, but sometimes Mother Nature outshines any performance we can produce.
updated 11:06 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In 1987, China sent its very first email. Here's what it said,
updated 10:13 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
The world's new fastest elevator will fling you from earth to the 95th floor before you're done reading this article.
updated 4:12 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In one U.S. state, a new bill will allow ordinary citizens to carry guns in all sorts of places. Does it make you feel safer?
updated 10:10 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
In South Korea, volunteer divers are risking their lives to rescue victims of the sunken ferry.
updated 3:15 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Park Jee Young, 22, helped passengers escape as the Sewol ferry sank -- giving out life jackets while refusing to wear one herself.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
What did outgoing manager David Moyes get wrong in his six months with English Premier League football team Manchester United?
updated 1:36 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
In honor of Shakespeare's birthday, here are 15 of the world's most amazing theaters.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
CNN exclusive: Australian officials are hammering out a new agreement for widening the Flight 370 search area.
updated 8:28 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Malaysian officials sent to brief Chinese families are armed with little to no information.
updated 11:45 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
When a team of Indian surgeons opened up the stomach of a 63-year-old man, they had no idea they'd extract a fortune.
updated 3:01 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Do these photos CNN of gun-toting men wearing green uniforms prove Russian forces are in eastern Ukraine?
updated 1:11 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
If the Duchess wears it, then your fashion career is sorted for life.
updated 1:29 PM EDT, Thu April 24, 2014
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
ADVERTISEMENT