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Lawyer Hails Planned Russian Law to Free Ailing Jail Inmates

Jail in MoscowMOSCOW. Dec 21 (Interfax) - A planned Russian law to release detention center inmates who are seriously ill would make it possible to save several thousand lives a year, a lawyer argued after the proposed law was passed by the State Duma on Tuesday.

"This law should have been adopted about 20 or 30 years ago. It's true that there are a great deal of deaths in detention centers - hundreds in Moscow and thousands of deaths nationwide per year," Vladimir Zherebyonkov told Interfax.

The bill, introduced by President Dmitry Medvedev, needs Federation Council approval and presidential endorsement to become law.

Zherebyonkov was a defense lawyer for Vera Trifonova, who died in detention in April.

The lawyer said many judges avoid releasing gravely ailing jail inmates out of fear of being accused of corruption, and that the planned law could "stop courts being afraid to set sick people free."

He also said there is practically no specialized prison health service in Russia. "People simply can't receive adequate assistance," he said.

The planned law is largely a response to the death of Trifonova and Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer for the Hermitage fund who died in jail in November last year.

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