Posthumous trial of Russian lawyer delayed

The trial of Russian lawyer and whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky officially began yesterday, but has been postponed for several weeks. This was not, as one might expect, because Magnitsky died in prison more than three years ago, but because his defense team has chosen not to participate in the bizarre proceeding: 

In Monday’s hearing, it was unclear who or what, exactly, went on trial. Mr. Magnitsky’s co-defendant, William F. Browder, the manager of the Hermitage Capital hedge fund, has been barred from entering Russia since 2005, so he did not appear in court.

The hearing was of a type in Russian practice that indicates that the police consider their work complete, and that the case can go to trial, Aleksandra V. Bereznina, a spokeswoman for Tverskoi Regional Court, said in an interview.

Judge Igor B. Alisov promptly postponed the trial because the defendants did not appear in the courtroom — as expected — but neither did lawyers representing their interests.[...]

The hearing took place in a closed courtroom. The defendants’ chairs were unoccupied, Ms. Bereznina said. Mr. Browder and relatives of Mr. Magnitsky have said they will boycott the proceedings.

Posthumous trials are nearly unheard of in modern law. The AP's Jim Heintz has attempted a listicle of other examples, but the most recent is Hitler's personal secretary Martin Borman, who was tried in absentia at Nuremberg but later turned out to have been dead at the time. The others are all macabre examples from centuries ago like the posthumous beheading of Oliver Cromwell and the infamous Cadaver Synod of 897. 

Browder wrote about the case for FP last March. 


Britain considers running negative ads against itself

Next year, curbs on Romanian and Bulgarian citizens living and working in Britain will expire. In order to prevent an influx of immigrants from those countries, the Guardian reports that the British government is reportedly considering a plan to trash their own country's image: 

The plan, which would focus on the downsides of British life, is one of a range of potential measures to stem immigration to Britain next year when curbs imposed on both country's citizens living and working in the UK will expire.

A report over the weekend quoted one minister saying that such a negative advert would "correct the impression that the streets here are paved with gold".

There was no word on how any advert might look or whether it would use the strategy of making Britain look as horrible as possible or try to encourage would-be migrants to wake up to the joys of their own countries whether Romania's Carpathian mountains or Bulgaria's Black Sea resorts. With governments around the world spending millions on hiring London-based consultants to undertake "reputation laundering" there would be a peculiar irony if Britain chose to trash its own image perhaps by highlighting winter flooding of homes or the carnage of a Saturday night A&E ward.

Downing Street has not confirmed or denied the plans. If the new proposed immigration deal doesn't work out, perhaps the U.S. government could follow with ads throughout Latin America focused on economic inequality, obesity, and gun crime. It's the next frontier of nation branding!

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images