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Flip-flops feed doubts about capacity of justice system to solve Politkovskaya case

The many twists and turns in the Anna Politkovskaya case since last week’s announcement of the arrest of ten suspects in the October 2006 murder of the Russian journalist are feeding doubts over the capacity and determination of the Russian authorities to solve it, nearly a year after the brutal killing of the journalist.

“Attempts to discredit the case, orchestrated since Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika announced the arrests, by those who have reasons not to want the murder solved, have not been any more helpful,” Reporters sans frontières (RSF) said. “All this should not allow the most important issue to be overlooked, namely that the security forces apparently provided assistance to organised crime to murder the journalist,” it said.

A woman places a portrait of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya at her house during a gathering on occasion of her birthday in Moscow August 30, 2007. Russia said on Tuesday it had put a new prosecutor in charge of investigating the murder of Politkovskaya in what her colleagues said showed political interference in the case. (Reuters/Denis Sinyakov)

“Successive statements, denials and turnarounds in the past 48 hours have given a deplorably confused character to the actions of the Russian authorities, totally incompatible with the gravity and seriousness that one has the right to expect in such a highly important case,” RSF said.

“We call on the justice system to keep in mind the demand of Anna Politkovskaya’s family and colleagues for the truth. We share their anxiety following the announced appointment of Sergei Ivanov as chief investigator and we hope that these changes will not damage the quality of the investigation,” the organisation concluded.

The prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday that a new investigating team had been created and that Sergei Ivanov, head of the investigative department in top-level cases within the office, would head and co-ordinate the work of two groups, while until now, Pyotr Garibyan was in sole charge of the investigation.

The prosecutor-general’s office said the decision was made because of the sheer volume of work to be done in the case. But the fact that a follow-up committee to check up on highly sensitive cases is due to start work on September 7, may explain these changes.

Russian media, quoting staff at Novaya gazeta, the newspaper where Politkovskaya worked, had reported that Garibyan had been replaced by a more senior official.

However, according to an Associated Press (AP) report the same day the chief prosecutor's office denied the reports. Marina Gridneva, spokeswoman for Prosecutor-General's office dismissed media claims about the dismissal of chief investigator Garibyan as unfounded. She said in televised comments that the number of investigators in the case has been increased to intensify the probe.

The same day it was learnt that the arrest of an FSB officer, Pavel Riaguzov, ruled illegal on September 3 by a Moscow military appeal court, had been upheld by another judge. Moreover, contradictory news is circulating about the crime for which the officer was arrested. His lawyer said he was facing proceedings in connection with a case dating back to 2002 which had no link to the death of Anna Politkovskaya.

Two other people on a list of suspects published on August 28 in the daily Tvoy Den, Alexei Berkin - bodyguard - and Oleg Alimov - a former Moscow police officer - were reportedly released for lack of evidence. Another suspect, Sergei Khadjikurbanov, a police officer specialised in the fight against organised crime, was in prison at the time of the murder.

Politkovskaya's persistent reporting of atrocities against civilians in war-scarred Chechnya had angered the Kremlin and the Kremlin-backed Chechen leadership, but won her international acclaim. Her killing has deepened Western concerns about the safety of journalists and government critics in President Vladimir Putin's Russia.

The lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, Anna Stavitskaya, has made it known that she has urged the prosecutor-general’s office to discover who leaked the identity of the suspects.

Russia’s Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaïka announced the arrest of ten suspects in the case on 27 August. Investigations centred on the Chechnya connection and he pointed the finger at an organised group headed “by the chief of a Moscow criminal gang, of Chechen origins” and said that among its ranks were former and current agents of the interior ministry and the FSB.

Date posted: September 7, 2007 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 11