International Law

Kremlin Fires Prison Head, 19 Staff, After Death of Jailed Lawyer


After an investigation into the sudden death last month of a 37-year-old Russian lawyer jailed on tax evasion charges after pointing the finger at claimed government corruption, the Kremlin has fired the head of the Moscow prison system.

In a Dec. 4 decree reported by Russian media today, President Dmitry Medvedev also dismissed 19 other officials, but it isn’t clear that these firings are related to the Nov. 16 death of Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison hospital, reports Reuters.

Among the other 19 axed is the head of the prison medical wing, the news agency reports.

A prison executive told a radio station that some top prison officials had been fired and others disciplined after the Magnitsky investigation exposed rule violations. However, a spokesman for the Federal Penitentiary Service later backtracked, denying any connection with the Magnitsky probe, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, this action by the Kremlin falls far short of the full investigation sought by Magnitsky’s colleagues and family, according to the newspaper.

“Nobody is looking at why Sergei was put in prison in the first place and why his conditions were made so bad,” attorney Jamison Firestone tells the newspaper. “It’s a total cover-up.”

Firestone serves as managing partner of the law firm at which Magnitsky worked.

Magnitsky’s colleagues and family contend that he was denied adequate medical care.

A pancreatic ailment diagnosed while he was jailed for a year awaiting trial likely led to his death, his lawyer and colleagues say. But investigators give heart failure as his preliminary cause of death, the WSJ reports. If confirmed, this could eliminate any potential criminal responsibility for his death on the part of prison officials.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Russian Lawyer, 37, Dies in Prison After Pursuing Claimed Kremlin Fraud”

Moscow Times: “Medvedev Orders Magnitsky Probes”

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