MOSCOW – MOSCOW (AP) — President Dmitry Medvedev ordered investigators Saturday to determine why another person has died in the same Moscow jail where lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died last year of an untreated illness.
Magnitsky's death, which caused an uproar in Russia and abroad, prompted Medvedev to take a number of steps intended to protect against similar deaths in the future.
But despite these efforts, Vera Trifonova, who was reported to have diabetes and chronic kidney failure, died Friday in the Matrosskaya Tishina jail. Trifonova, the 53-year-old head of a real estate company, had been jailed since December on fraud charges.
Medvedev ordered a full investigation and promised to punish those found responsible, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Chief federal investigator Alexander Bastrykin said an investigation would be carried out and in the meantime he has ordered prosecutors throughout the country to consider a suspect's health and age when deciding whether they should remain in custody, a statement released by his office said.
Following Magnitsky's death, the president pushed through a law that would allow suspects in economic crimes to be released on bail instead of being jailed.
He also fired about 20 penitentiary service officials, including the Moscow prisons chief and the head of the Matrosskaya Tishina jail, as part of a prison reform effort.
The Matrosskaya Tishina administration had twice appealed to prosecutors to release Trifonova, but they refused, Ekho Moskvy radio reported, citing the Moscow prisons chief.
The radio station cited her defense lawyer, Vladimir Zherebenkov, as saying that prosecutors refused to release Trifonova unless she first confessed.
Magnitsky, 37, died in November after pancreatitis he developed during nearly a year in custody went untreated. He was arrested on tax-evasion charges linked to his work with Hermitage Capital Management, a multibillion-dollar fund headed by U.S.-born British investor William Browder. Hermitage has accused Interior Ministry officers of illegally taking over assets it managed and using them to fraudulently reclaim $230 million in taxes from the state.
An independent prison watchdog has concluded that Magnitsky was intentionally exposed to "torturous" conditions in jail and pressured to testify against Browder.
Medvedev also ordered an investigation into Magnitsky's death, but no charges have been filed.