- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 27, 2010

REVOKE VISAS

The chairman of a congressional human rights panel Monday called on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to revoke the visas of 60 Russian officials implicated in the death of an imprisoned Russian lawyer who exposed a massive fraud scheme.

“I urge you to immediately cancel and permanently withdraw the U.S. visa privileges of all those involved in this crime,” said Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The Maryland Democrat held hearings last year about the case of Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in November from complications involving gallstones and pancreatitis. Mr. Cardin said Mr. Magnitsky died because prison authorities denied him medical treatment.

Mr. Magnitsky, who died after about a year in prison awaiting trial on tax-evasion charges, testified last year against officials from the Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, Federal Tax Service, Arbitration Courts, General Prosecutor Office and the Federal Prison Service. He accused them of involvement in a scheme to divert $230 million in taxes for their personal use.

Mr. Magnitsky was the lawyer in Moscow for a British investment firm, Hermitage Capital Management. He accused the Russian officials of confiscating Hermitage assets and trying to reclaim the taxes paid by the firm. Shortly after his testimony, he was arrested by Interior Ministry officers.

Mr. Cardin cites an investigation by the Prison Oversight Committee, an independent watchdog group in Moscow, which reported that Mr. Magnitsky’s death was “intentional” and “murder.” He also referred to a State Department human rights report that concluded that Mr. Magnitsky was tortured in an attempt to force him to recant his testimony.

Mr. Cardin urged Mrs. Clinton to use her authority to revoke the visas of the officials “involved in significant corruption in that country” and responsible for the “torture and death” of Mr. Magnitsky.

“Doing so will provide some measure of justice for the late Mr. Magnitsky and his surviving family and will send an important message to corrupt officials in Russia and elsewhere that the U.S. is serious about combating foreign corruption and the harm it does,” he said.

A State Department spokesman said Mrs. Clinton received the letter on Friday and the department is preparing a response.

LIBRESCU STREET

Romania has named the street in front of the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest in honor of a Romanian-born professor and Holocaust survivor who gave up his life to save his students from a crazed gunman at Virginia Tech three years ago.

Liviu Librescu was killed April 16, 2007, when he held the door to his classroom closed so his students could escape through a window from the murderous rampage of South Korean student Seung-Hui Cho, who fatally shot 32 people before committing suicide. Cho shot Mr. Librescu through the closed classroom door.

At a dedication ceremony in the Romanian capital, U.S. Ambassador Mark Gitenstein praised Mr. Librescu, saying the professor “will live on in our memory every day, as we pass this street named in his honor.”

Nicholas Taubman, the former U.S. ambassador who proposed the street be named for the slain engineering professor, said Mr. Librescu “was first and foremost a humanitarian who put the lives of his students above his own.”

Mr. Librescu, a Romanian Jew born in 1930, was held in a labor camp during World War II. He later earned a doctorate degree in fluid mechanics and worked as a researcher until the 1970s, when he refused to swear allegiance to the Romanian Communist Party.

Romanian authorities allowed him to emigrate to Israel in 1978, and he came to the United States in 1985 to teach at Virginia Tech.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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