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A preliminary hearing in the posthumous trial of whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky takes place at a Moscow court after having been delayed several times. Sergei Magnitsky has been accused of tax evasion worth 522 million roubles.
The hearing, which was supposed to take place on February 18, after having been initially scheduled for December 27 and later January 28, was adjourned after the Magnitsky family's defence lawyers refused to participate in what they deemed to be an "unconstitutional" process against a dead man.Despite the defence's protests that it is illegal to try a dead man, Russia decided to open a fraud trial against Magnitsky, a lawyer whose prison death in 2009 led to the biggest US-Russia dispute in years.
Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 and spent nearly a year in poor prison conditions, died at the age of 37 of untreated illnesses. A report by the Kremlin human rights council said he was tortured and handcuffed in his final hours.
The lawyer, who before his arrest said he had uncovered a tax scam worth 5.4 billion roubles against the company he worked for, was charged with the same crimes he claimed to have uncovered. The case was closed after his death but then reopened in August 2011.
Investigators had said in February they planned to put the dead man on trial.
William Browder, the head of Hermitage Capital who was charged with the same crimes and will be tried in absentia, had led the campaign to punish those allegedly responsible for Magnitsky's death, which saw the US passing the Magnitsky Act , which blacklists such individuals.
In response, the Russian parliament has passed a law banning adoptions of Russian children by Americans.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law into effect in January.