Skip to main content

Russian court convicts whistle-blowing lawyer after his death

By CNN Staff
July 12, 2013 -- Updated 1734 GMT (0134 HKT)
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
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0254 GMT (1054 HKT)
A decade on from devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the Red Cross' Matthias Schmale says that the lessons learned have made us safer.
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0024 GMT (0824 HKT)
As soon as word broke that "The Interview" will hit some theaters, celebrations erupted across social media -- including from the stars of the film.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1844 GMT (0244 HKT)
Did a rogue hacker -- or the U.S. government -- cut the cord for the regime's Internet?
December 24, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Monaco's newborn royals, Princess Gabriella and Crown Prince Jacques Honore Rainier, posed for their first official photos with their parents.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 1706 GMT (0106 HKT)
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
December 23, 2014 -- Updated 0822 GMT (1622 HKT)
The United States and North Korea have long been locked in a bitter cycle of escalating and deescalating tensions. But the current cyber conflict may be especially hard to predict.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 2100 GMT (0500 HKT)
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1134 GMT (1934 HKT)
New planes, new flight tests ... but will we get cheaper airfares?
December 21, 2014 -- Updated 1746 GMT (0146 HKT)
The killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 0251 GMT (1051 HKT)
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it has never looked better.
December 20, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Unicef has warned that more than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation.
December 22, 2014 -- Updated 1701 GMT (0101 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT