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U.S. House adopts Magnitsky bill

Sergei Magnitsky (1972 – 2009)A bill to isolate and punish officials and others responsible for the death of a Russian anti-corruption lawyer was passed Friday by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Sergei Magnitsky died in a Russian prison three years ago.

The thirty-seven year old lawyer, left, was detained while investigating the $230 million looting of a fund run by Hermitage Capital. He uncovered evidence of criminal involvement by police officials, bankers, judges and lawyers.

The bill adopted by the House would also sanction Russian human-rights abusers not involved in Magnitsky’s case.

He was held for a year without trial before his death. In prison he was beaten and repeatedly denied medical attention.

No one in Russia has been arrested or tried in connection with the case.

The head of Hermitage Capital, William Browder, has lobbied Western governments to move against those responsible for looting his Russia investment fund and killing his lawyer.

The vote for the bill in the U.S. House was 365 in favour and 43 against.

To become law, it needs to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Obama.

The bill also repeals Jackson-Vanik Amendment, a Cold War law that imposed trade restrictions on Russia for persecution of Jews and other religious minorities. That law has kept many U.S. food producers and others out of the Russia market.

The Obama administration has indicated support for the Magnitsky law.

The House bill gives the State Department and Treasury four months to list individuals subject to the targeted sanctions. Listed persons would then become ineligible for entry into the U.S., have any existing visas revoked, and have their financial assets frozen.

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