WASHINGTON – Arizona Sen. John McCain on Thursday slammed a Russian court’s conviction of dead lawyer Sergei Magnitsky for tax evasion, angrily saying the U.S. needs to make more Russians “feel some pain.”
And he took issue with the U.S. administration for its low-key reaction to the guilty verdict, saying Washington should be appalled by the court’s decision.
“Does that remind you of the bad old days of the Soviet Union when we convict dead people?” McCain asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Doesn’t that appall you. . . . Isn’t that outrageous that a man we know was tortured to death by the Russian authorities” was found guilty, he asked.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki earlier denounced the guilty verdict, saying the U.S. was “disappointed by the unprecedented posthumous criminal conviction against Sergei Magnitsky.”
“The trial was a discredit to the efforts of those who continue to seek justice in his case,” she said.
Magnitsky was convicted by the Moscow court along with his former boss, U.S.-born British citizen William Browder, the head of the Hermitage Capital investment fund, who was sentenced in absentia to nine years in a prison colony.
Magnitsky had accused Russian Interior Ministry officials of organizing a $235 million tax scam against Hermitage Capital, but was then charged with the very crimes he claimed to have uncovered.
He was placed under pre-trial detention in 2008 and died of untreated illnesses less than a year later at the age of 37.
The official cause of death was heart failure along with a number of health conditions, but rights activists who have investigated his death believe he was tortured after blowing the whistle on the fraud.
Former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland agreed with McCain as she appeared before lawmakers for her nomination hearing to be the next assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.
“It’s a travesty of justice when one is putting energy into convicting a dead man rather than finding out who was responsible for his murder,” Nuland said.
Russia has not convicted anyone over his death and has closed the investigation.