A Russian investigator probing Sergei Magnitsky for alleged tax evasion denied Thursday he had played any role in the ailing lawyer's death while he was imprisoned in a Moscow jail.
Oleg Silchenko, a senior investigator at the Interior Ministry's Investigative Department, made his first public appearance at a news conference Thursday.
Magnitsky was imprisoned in 2008 and died of untreated pancreatitis in Nov. 2009. His family blame Silchenko for his death, saying he was unable to receive treatment for his condition due to his continued detention.
Silchenko told reporters he had denied pleas to put the ailing Magnitsky under house arrest because he believed he could have been dangerous at large.
"The investigation we have carried out had given us enough grounds to suspect him of a crime and suspect that he could pressure witnesses," Silchenko said.
He also reiterated investigators' views that the lawyer was a flight risk because he had had his photo taken for a visa.
The investigator remains top of a list of dozens of Russian officials barred by the United States from entering the country for his alleged role in the death.
Interior Ministry spokesman Anzhelika Kastuyeva said Thursday that Silchenko had no powers to recommend Magnitsky for medical treatment.
"An investigator is not supposed to give any such permissions," she said, adding that Magnitsky and his relatives were supposed to be seeking help independently.
Magnitsky's mother has alleged that Silchenko had deliberately created unbearable prison conditions to force a guilty plea from her son. Despite numerous pleas, court documents posted online by Magnitsky's supporters show Silchenko had only agreed to grant the lawyer one family visit during his 12-month detention.
Silchenko said Thursday that this was in the "interests of the investigation,"
Human rights activist Kirill Kabanov _ the co-author of an independent probe into Magnitsky's death _ said Thursday that activists would not rest until they are assured a thorough investigation into officials' and investigators' possible involvement in Magnitsky's death has been completed.