Raft of Moscow prison officials sacked following jail death of lawyer

General Vladimir Davydov was dismissed along with 20 other penitentiary service officials including regional directors, heads of office, heads of the medical department and the chief warden of Matrosskaya Tishina prison – where Magnitsky was held before his death.

As well as being dismissed the officials’ positions were abolished by a decree from Russian president Dmitry Medvedev as part of a reorganisation.

The sackings come as part of a continuing investigation, conducted at the request of Medvedev, by the Prosecutor General into the tax lawyer’s death. The investigation committee of the Russian prosecutor’s office has also initiated a criminal case for ‘failure to provide medical assistance to a patient’ and professional negligence.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” said Victor Potapov, a legal translator in Moscow, talking about the investigation. “It shows that whoever tried to keep this quiet has failed. But if you weigh what’s happened to Sergey Magnitsky with what has happened to these officials, loss of life to loss of title, it’s not so great. They weren’t even discharged dishonourably, so they could get another position.”

But in a radio interview that took place on 4 December the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service Aleksandr Reymer said that Dadydov will not be getting another appointment.

Magnitsky was a tax lawyer at Moscow firm Firestone Duncan who was advising Hermatige Capital on tax fraud allegations when he was arrested for tax evasion. He was detained for a year without trial before dying, reportedly of heart failure, on 16 November (25 November 2009).

“As Sergey’s former boss I’ve been getting congratulatory messages for the last few hours,” said Firestone Duncan managing partner Jamison Firestone, “but I’m actually quite concerned that the president’s investigation has been misled and that the people really responsible for Sergey Magnitskey’s false imprisonment and death are going to go unpunished.

“The investigation seems to be concentrating on the fact that while in prison Sergey was diagnosed as needing medical care and that since Sergey asked for medical care and wasn’t provided with it the investigation has therefore concluded that systematic inefficiencies and neglect within the prison system led to his death.

“Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sergey was falsely imprisoned by law enforcement officers who he accused of aiding a theft of $230m from the Russian Treasury. Sergey was not neglected in prison, he was actively persecuted.”