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When Donald Trump, Jr., met with a Russian lawyer during his dad's presidential campaign last year, he was hoping to learn incriminating information about Hillary Clinton. But according to Trump, the lawyer wanted to talk about repealing the Magnitsky Act. This is a law that was passed to sanction certain Russian officials suspected of human rights abuses. NPR's Miles Parks looks back at the law on its fifth anniversary.
MILES PARKS, BYLINE: Bill Browder spent most of the last decade fighting for his friend and lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky.
BILL BROWDER: I made a vow to his memory, to his family, to myself that I was going to go out and get the people who killed him and make sure they faced justice.
PARKS: In 2012, he helped push the Magnitsky Act through Congress to punish those people. The law prevented the Russian officials responsible from entering the United States and froze their American assets. And it's since been expanded to target human rights abusers across the globe. To convince lawmakers, Browder has told the story over and over, in public hearings and in their private offices, how uncovering a $230 million fraud scheme led to Magnitsky being horrifically punished, denied medical treatment and beaten to death chained to a bed in his prison cell.
BROWDER: It's such a pure story of good versus evil, that you had this guy who was a patriot, who was trying to do the right thing by his country, and it was such an evil country that they crushed him and killed him and that everybody at the highest levels participated in the cover-up of his death, including the president of Russia, Putin.
PARKS: The story's made impact internationally, too. Four other countries have taken similar legislative action, including Canada, the United Kingdom and, last month, Lithuania. But in Browder's eyes, the United States' list of violators is still too small. Forty-four people are on it. But Browder says in 2012 he presented over 250 names to the State Department along with evidence of human rights violations. New names have typically been announced each year after January 1st.
BROWDER: And so this is the big test for Donald Trump about whether he is really a friend of Putin's or whether he's a tough guy. It's highly significant and highly pregnant with meaning, whatever he does or doesn't do.
PARKS: Miles Parks, NPR News, Washington.
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