Magnitsky prison death caused by criminal acts: Medvedev

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The death in prison of Western fund attorney Sergei Magnitsky was caused by criminal acts, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev said Tuesday, according to the official Itar-Tass news agency.

"The case of Magnitsky is a very sad case, for this man is dead, and in all likelihood, there were certain criminal actions that led to this result," Medvedev said during a human rights council meeting at the Kremlin.

A commissioner on the rights panel told Medvedev on Tuesday that a report into Magnitsky's 2009 death revealed many inconsistencies about how and why he died.

"People should not die in prison. If they are sick, they should leave prison to be treated, after which the courts can make a decision about their fate," Medvedev said.

Arrested for fraud in November 2009, the 37-year-old Hermitage Capital investment fund attorney claimed to have unravelled an illegal scheme through which top Russian officials received returns on more than $200 million in taxes paid by the Western firm.

He was detained at a Moscow prison, but was transferred to another facility shortly before he died of heart failure.

His case has come to symbolise both the perils facing Western businesses in Russia and the seeming gap between Medvedev's more liberal rhetoric and his actual reform accomplishments.

His death also sparked outrage among international rights groups and drew condemnation from Western governments.

In his prison journal that became public, Magnitsky recounted the terrible conditions of prison life, including hunger, cold temperatures and appalling access to medical care.

On Monday, Russian investigators blamed the death on shortcomings at the notorious Matrosskaya Tishina jail where he died.

But on Tuesday, members of the Kremlin human rights commission released a report that said many questions about his death remain unanswered.

Report co-author and former parliament member Vladimir Borshchyov told AFP he believed the lawyer may have been beaten before his death.

"He died in a cell, in a box, without medical assistance. He stayed in that box for an hour surrounded by eight guards," he said.

The commission said it would publish on Wednesday the names of the doctors and the prison officials implicated in Magnitsky's death.

Borshchyov cited several names to the Interfax news agency including investigator Oleg Siltchenko, doctor Alexandra Gaouss and the head of the prison's medical section Dmitri Kratov.