Russian court convicts whistle-blowing lawyer after his death
July 12, 2013 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
- 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.
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.
Part of complete coverage on
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1745 GMT (0145 HKT)
Mandela spent almost three decades in jail. But he had two Indian goddesses and a 17th century playwright for company.
He was imprisoned for life but that did not quiet him. Nelson Mandela became South Africa's first black president, and an icon and inspiration.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0319 GMT (1119 HKT)
His was a great sense of humor, with a dry wit and remarkable ability to render someone speechless with a well-placed one-liner.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Mohammed Jamjoon interviews the American performer who stunned the Arab world by singing in Arabic.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
He was loved and admired the world over, profiled in books and movies. Here are 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know about Mandela.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1532 GMT (2332 HKT)
"Sometimes it just takes one incident to galvanize a society," says CNN's Sumnima Udas.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Drones hover like a bee, flap like a bird and bounce like a ball. These awesome flying robots are taking unmanned flight in new directions.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
The mysterious "catacomb saints" were venerated by the Catholic Church and encrusted with gold and jewels -- before disappearing for centuries.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
The KAZA conservation area is working to make it easier to cross borders.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1256 GMT (2056 HKT)
He started his first business venture with capital of just $200 but today, he is one of Liberia's most prominent businessmen.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 0009 GMT (0809 HKT)
North Korea is showing no signs of scaling back its fearsome labor camp system, says human rights group Amnesty International.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1051 GMT (1851 HKT)
Meet 24-year-old Marita Cheng: the talented technician bringing robots to your home.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0304 GMT (1104 HKT)
Japanese blogger Keisuke Jinushi started the "hitori date" (one-man date) blog two years ago.
Today's five most popular stories