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Bomb scare forces postponement of Klebnikov trail

The trial of two men charged with killing Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov has been postponed again – this time following a bomb alert, news agency RIA Novosti reported. "The hearings adjourned after a bailiff announced a bomb threat," defence attorney, Ruslan Koblev, said. He said the alert came when Public Attorney Dmitry Shokhin began presenting the charges. The trial has been postponed to February 20.

ELUSIVE JUSTICE: Paul Klebnikov, a US journalist of Russian descent, was gunned down outside his Moscow office on July 9, 2004. From the beginning of the investigation, Russian authorities described Klebnikov's case as a contract murder and said they believed he was killed because of his work. (MosNews)

A spokesman for the family of Klebnikov, who was shot to death in the street outside his Moscow office in July 2004, said presiding Judge Vladimir Usov dismissed the jury, and that a new panel of 12 jurors and six alternates had been selected. The trial was halted last month after previous judge, Marina Komarova, fell ill.

Two ethnic Chechens, Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev, have been charged with killing Klebnikov on behalf of Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, a Chechen separatist figure who was the subject of a critical book by the victim, "Conversations with a Barbarian," and remains at large. The new judge rejected the defence counsel's plea for opening the trial to the public.

"We renew our appeal to the Russian authorities to show their commitment to transparency and make the Paul Klebnikov hearings open to the media and the public," Ann Cooper, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), reacted.

Klebnikov family spokesman Alexei Brevnov said the judge rejected a defence request to open the trial, ruling that the decision to hold it behind closed doors was not subject to review because it was made in preliminary hearings under the previous judge – not during the phase of the trial that is being repeated. The trial's closure had sparked criticism and deepened speculation about the strength of the prosecution's case.

Court officials said last year that the trial would be closed because some of the case materials were classified. Russian news agencies, however, cited defence lawyers as saying there was no reason to fully close the trial because prosecutors had not called for the classified materials to be examined as evidence.

Some critics of Russia's justice system have said that prosecutors failed to properly pursue other lines of investigation in the case. Observers have suggested that Klebnikov may have made powerful enemies because he investigated corruption and sought to shed light on the closed world of Russian business.

The US government and Klebnikov's family, whose roots are in Russia, have urged prosecutors to thoroughly investigate all angles and stressed the importance of bringing those behind the killing to justice – not just those who carried it out. The US also has pressed Russian authorities to open court proceedings to ensure transparency.

Dukuzov and Vakhayev pleaded not guilty after the January opening of the Moscow City Court trial.

A third defendant, Fail Sadretdinov, is being tried alongside the two Chechens for a separate crime, the alleged attempted murder of a Moscow businessman, Brevnov said. Sadretdinov is not charged in Klebnikov's killing.

Date posted: February 16, 2006 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 11