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Is Russia trying a dead whistle-blower because of a US law?

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But in an apparent effort to overturn the widely-held Western narrative, which sees Magnitsky as the victim of corrupt officials and a lawless state, Russian prosecutors have announced they will put the deceased Magnitsky on trial later this month, seeking to prove that he and his former boss, Bill Browder, head of the London-based Hermitage Capital, were the real criminals.

The pending trial has been fiercely opposed by Magnitsky's mother – who will be required to stand in for her dead son – and lawyers, who argue that a posthumous trial is against Russian law in all cases except when a family asks the court to "rehabilitate" a victim of an unjust verdict (a common legacy of the Stalin era).

"We did not ask for this, and we do not think the deputy prosecutor had any right to revive Sergei's case after it was closed upon his death," says Natalia Magnitskaya, Magnitsky's mother.

"We seriously doubt that the very same people who prosecuted Sergei hold out any prospect of rehabilitating him. So, our family doesn't want to take any part in these illegal actions," she adds.

Last week a Russian court acquitted Dmitry Kratov, a prison doctor who is the only official ever to have been charged in connection with Magnitsky's death. Mr. Kratov had been accused of failing to render timely medical assistance on the night Magnitsky died in handcuffs on the floor of a Moscow prison cell. A post-mortem report issued by the Russian Ministry of Health indicated that "the injuries on Magnitsky's body were most likely caused by multiple injuring impacts of a blunt object that might possibly be a rubber baton."

"This case was never properly investigated by authorities," says Lyubov Volkova, a member of the Public Oversight Commission, an independent watchdog mandated by Russian law to report on prison conditions. It was the first non-governmental group to look into the circumstances of Magnitsky's death.

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