MOSCOW, January 28 - RAPSI. Moscow's Tverskoy District Court on Monday ruled to appoint an attorney for the tax evasion case against deceased Hermitage Capital auditor Sergei Magnitsky, who died while in pre-trial detention in 2009.

Under Russian criminal law, a dead person can be prosecuted. According to Article 24 of the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure, proceedings can be closed against a deceased person who stood accused of some some crime pending the consent of his relatives. The case would then be closed on so called non-rehabilitative grounds meaning that relatives of the person do not demand the deceased person to be recognized as innocent. Under the law, if a family wants their deceased to be cleared of all charges and declared innocent, they must approve ongoing investigations. 

In the case of Magnistsky, his mother requested that prosecutors wrap the proceedings. Prosecutors, however, refused. 

Magnitsky's mother has expressed her belief that the prosecutors' decision to keep charges going is a form of blackmail or pressure.

Preliminary hearings in the case had previously been postponed because the attorneys defending Magnitsky and Hermitage Capital Management Bill Browder, who has also been accused of tax evasion, did not appear in court.

Thus the court has appointed attorneys for both Magnitsky and Browder.

"The preliminary hearing which was to be held today has been postponed until 11 am on February 18 because Magnitsky's and Browder's attorneys have not appeared in court. The court has decided to appoint attorneys for them. The next court session will also be preliminary and will be held behind closed doors," the court's press secretary, Alexandra Berezina, told journalists.

Sergei Magnitsky, the managing partner of the Firestone Duncan auditing firm and tax and legal consultant of the Hermitage Capital Management investment fund, was detained on November 24, 2008. On the same day the Investigative Committee charged Magnitsky with tax evasion as part of the Hermitage criminal case. On November 26, the Moscow Tverskoy District Court issued an arrest warrant in his name. On November 16, 2009, Sergei Magnitsy died in the Matrosskaya Tishina investigative isolation ward where he was being held.