MOSCOW Russia denied entry to a U.S. former commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in retaliation for a U.S. law intended to punish Russian human rights violators, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Denisov said on Friday.
The United States passed the "Magnitsky Act", named after an anti-corruption lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009, last year to bar entry for alleged Russian rights violators and freeze any assets they hold in the United States.
In response, Russia introduced a ban on Americans adopting Russian orphans and blacklisted U.S. citizens it deems human rights violators.
Russian media reported last year that entry was denied to Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson, former commander at the Guantanamo U.S. Naval Base in Cuba who now oversees Europe, NATO and Russia affairs at the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"We have already denied entry to some American general, who was commander at the Guantanamo base," Denisov said in response to a question about Americans blacklisted from entering Russia, Interfax news agency reported. Denisov did not specify the timing or give the general's name.
Civil liberties advocates say the indefinite detentions of inmates at the U.S. base, including alleged September 11 conspirators, are illegal or unjustified. President Barack Obama said on taking office in 2009 he would close the prison and bring inmates to trial in civilian courts but has faced opposition from Congress.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly criticised Washington for its treatment of Guantanamo inmates, hinting the United States had no moral right to lecture Russia on human rights.
The Russian Foreign Ministry would not confirm or deny the reports, saying its policy was not to name those barred from entering Russia. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Moscow declined to comment.
Moscow and Washington attempted to mend relations when Obama first entered the White House, but ties have cooled since Putin, a former KGB spy and ardent critic of the West, returned to the presidency last year.
The adoptions ban upset Russian rights campaigners who accuse the Kremlin of politicising the issue. But Putin's adviser on child rights said earlier this week the ban will not be overturned.
(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; Editing by Janet Lawrence)