MOSCOW, July 6: A lawyer whose gruesome jailhouse death spooked investors and blackened Russia's image probably was beaten to death in pre-trial detention, the Kremlin's human rights council said in a report published on Wednesday.

Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for the equity fund Hermitage Capital, whose British-based head fell foul of the government during Vladimir Putin's presidency, died in November 2009 after nearly a year awaiting trial on a tax evasion charge.

Colleagues allege that the case against Magnitsky was fabricated by police investigators whom he accused of stealing $230 million from the state through fraudulent tax returns, and say his death was the result of a conspiracy led by the same officers.

Magnitsky's death has turned into a test of President Dmitry Medvedev, who has vowed to reform a justice system he says is badly flawed.—Reuters

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