MOSCOW (AP) — The mother of a whistle-blowing Russian lawyer who died in prison thanked President Barack Obama Friday for a U.S. law targeting Russian officials deemed to be human rights violators involved in her son's death.
Sergei Magnitsky died in jail of untreated pancreatitis in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of stealing $230 million from the state. The case has angered both Russian activists and the West, and in December the U.S. Congress passed legislation in Magnitsky's name, calling for sanctions against officials considered to be connected with human rights abuses.
Natalya Magnitskaya said she is grateful to Obama for facilitating the adoption of the bill.
"I would probably thank him after all for adopting this law, it will somehow keep my son's memory," she said. "Of course, it is sad that he became well-known on such an occasion."
Magnitsky, a lawyer for the Hermitage Capital fund, was arrested in 2008 on suspicion of tax evasion by the same Interior Ministry officials he accused of using false tax documents to steal the $230 million. An investigation by Russia's presidential council on human rights concluded he was severely beaten and denied medical treatment.
Prison doctor Dmitry Kratov, the only person to face trial in the case, was acquitted in late December.
The Magnitsky bill provoked retaliation from Moscow, including a measure barring Americans from adopting Russian children that President Vladimir Putin signed on Friday.
Magnitskaya criticized the Russian ban, saying it will not help Russian orphans.
"Turns out that it took them Sergei's death to start caring about Russian orphans," she said.
The bill is part of Russia's increasingly confrontational stance with the West and has angered some Russians who argue it victimizes children to make a political point.