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Russia passes bill to release terminally ill suspects from custody

Memorial Flowers and Photograph of Sergei MagnitskyMOSCOW, December 21 (RIA Novosti)-The lower house of Russia's parliament approved on Tuesday a presidential bill allowing the release of severely ill suspects from custody following a series of high-profile pre-trial deaths.

"If a judge deems a suspect to be severely ill, he will be able to make his punishment milder," lawmaker Vladimir Gruzdev told RIA Novosti.

The highly-publicized deaths of Lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and businesswoman Vera Trifonova forced the Russian authorities into action on Russia's dire record of pre-trial detention abuses.

Magnitsky, who was defending British investment company Hermitage Capital Management against tax evasion charges, died aged 37 in Moscow's Butyrka pre-trial detention center last November after his pancreatitis was not attended to.

Magnitsky's death triggered an international row last year amid concerns that his imprisonment could have been politically motivated.

Trifonova, 54, a wheelchair-bound businesswoman, died in April after she was refused medical treatment and told to sleep "standing up" in another pre-trial detention center in Moscow, Matrosskaya Tishina.

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