Russia murder suspects back on trial

Retrial of men suspected of killing investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 begins in Moscow.

    A second attempt to convict the suspected murderers of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya has begun at a pre-trial hearing in Moscow.

    More than six years after Politkovskaya was shot in the lobby of her Moscow apartment building, Rustam Makhmudov, the suspected killer, two of his brothers and two other defendants, including his uncle, appeared in court on Monday, facing murder charges for the second time.

    Chechnyan Lom-Ali Gaitukayev is accused of organising the crime along with his three nephews. 

    Rustam Makhmudov, who was arrested after being on the run, is suspected of gunning down Politkovskaya, 48, in her apartment building on October 7, 2006.

    "God only knows what to expect of all this. I know they have done no wrong, I hope to see them home," said his father Ruslan Makhmudov.

    Rustam's brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former Moscow police officer have already been tried and acquitted over the affair.

    More investigations

    The supreme court then halted a retrial, sending the case back for more investigation.

    Another former police officer, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, concluded a plea bargain with prosecutors and confessed his guilt in tracking Politkovskaya and providing the murder weapon.

    He was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December but did not say who had ordered the killing.

    The Monday hearing to discuss the procedures of the trial was held behind closed doors at Moscow City Court.

    Politkovskaya made enemies throughout her career by reporting on Russian corruption and rights abuses in Chechnya. 

    She also directly criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sent troops in to Chechnya in 1999, and her death came to symbolise attempts to stifle dissent under his rule.

    Putin condemned her death after being branded a "murderer" in 2006 by protesters.

    "In my opinion murdering such a person certainly does much greater damage from the authorities’ point of view, authorities that she strongly criticised, than her publications ever did," he said.

    Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer representing Politkovskaya's family, expressed doubt that the key issue of who ordered the murder would be resolved.

    "The case will be solved in full when the person who ordered it is found, when his name is established, when he is charged and his guilt is established by court," she said.

    "There is no chance the name will be voiced in this trial."

    The pre-trial hearing was adjourned until Tuesday, after defence lawyers said they had found faults in the prosecutors' case.

    They also said they wanted a trial to be held before a jury, something Politkovskaya's family supports.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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