Moscow's Tverskoi court assigned lawyers to relatives of Hermitage Capital foundation auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who died in November 2009, as it continued to review a tax evasion case against the deceased. His relatives refuse to participate in the proceedings as did the defendant's lawyers. Rights activists called the trial of the deceased person "a dangerous precedent."
The defendant's lawyer confirmed to the Kommersant his intention to ignore the legal proceedings because he regards them "immoral and illegitimate." Nikolai Gorokhov, who represents mother of the deceased auditor, noted that a posthumous inquest "is not the initiative of Sergei Magnitsky's relatives, as required by the Constitutional Court, but a decision by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Grin, involved in his criminal prosecution." "How can you regard this probe objective or legal?" the lawyer asked. In his opinion, the true objective of the investigators and the court is to "smear the defendants, who exposed a federal money embezzlement scheme."
Amnesty International, prior to its meeting on Monday, published a sharp statement by its Europe and Central Asia director John Dalhuisen about the inadmissibility of posthumous prosecution of Magnitsky, the Novaya Izvestia reports. The Russian authorities' intention to continue criminal prosecution of Sergei Magnitsky should be viewed as a violation of his basic rights /regardless of where he has died or not/, in particular the right to personally defend himself in court. "The trial of a deceased person and the forcible involvement of his relatives is a dangerous precedent that would open a whole new chapter in Russia's worsening human rights record," Dalhuisen said.
Retired Constitutional Court judge Tamara Morshchakova, cited by the Nezavisimaya Gazeta, believes that the Magnitsky case cannot be reopened without his relative's request. She shares the position of the lawyers representing the family of the deceased person: "the proceedings are no longer legal. The trial against the deceased, which is being held contrary to his relative's wish is absolutely illegal. Its consequences are null and void." Commenting of the assigning of lawyers by the Tverskoi court, Morshchakova noted: "my position is that a lawyer cannot take on the defense of illegal interest, that's all. How it is implemented in his actions is a special situation."
Why the investigative bodies, while probing into "the Magnitsky case and criticizing Browder are not looking into the accusations the foundation and Magnitsky himself had thrown at Russian tax inspectors?" the newspaper asks. Earlier, a source at investigative bodies explained to the newspaper that the Investigative Committee was only looking into the circumstances of Magnitsky'd death and that the Interior Ministry's investigation department was handling other issues. In response, a Hermitage Capital representative said "under the law, the Investigative Committee has to look into the reports on crimes by officials, including police and tax inspectors. With Magnitsky's testimony on hand, given back in 2008, and names of the members of the criminal group which included corrupted Russian officials, not one of them has been arraigned by the investigators in these four years."