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Judge reverses decision to let press and public attend Anna Politkovskaya murder trial

Judge reverses decision to let press and public attend Politkovskaya trial
In the dock: Suspects in the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, sit in court in Moscow, Monday November 17, 2008, before the court ordered that they must stand trial in open court, for their alledged involvement in the killing. Seen behind bars are the accused, from left, Pavel Ryguzov, Sergei khadzhikurbanov, Ibragim Makhmudov and Dhzabrail Makhmudov, while Said Arsanezayev, lawyer of Ibragim Makhmudov, sitting 4th right, and Murad Musayev, lawyer of Dzhabrai Makhmudov, sitting 3rd right, look through papers. The suspects being tried on murder charges are former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, and Makhmudov brothers, Ibragim and Dzhabrail. Prosecutors say the man accused of pulling the trigger, Rustam Makhmudov, has fled the country.Photo: Associated Press (AP) / Sergey Ponomarev

A Moscow court has reversed an earlier decision and barred the public and media from the trial of four men accused of murdering journalist Anna Politkovskaya,

Yevgeny Zubov, the presiding judge in the trial of four men for the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya, Wednesday ruled that the press and public will henceforth be excluded, reversing the decision he took on the first day of the trial two days earlier.

Zubov issued his ruling after receiving a note from jurors saying they refused to enter the courtroom as long as the press was there. There were many journalists in the military court for the start of Wednesday's session.

The man accused of shooting Politkovskaya, Rustam Makhmudov, has fled the country. The three men being tried on murder charges are Sergei Khadzhikurbanov—a former Moscow police officer—and Makhmudov's brothers, Ibragim and Dzhabrail. The case was being heard in a military court because a fourth defendant is a Federal Security Service officer. He is accused of criminal links to Khadzhikurbanov, but he has not been charged in Politkovskaya's killing.

The four men charged with the killing of Politkovskaya entered not guilty pleas at their trial, a lawyer for one of the defendants told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday. "All four pleaded not guilty," said Murad Musayev, a lawyer representing Dzhabrail Makhmudov, who has been accused of monitoring the journalist's movements before she was shot dead outside her home in Moscow in 2006.

Paris-based Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) asked Politkovskaya’s son, Ilya Politkovskiy, and Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitri Muratov to comment on the ruling. “I was also opposed to the trial taking place with a lot of disorderliness,” Politkovskiy said. “But a consensus could have been found by letting fewer journalists into the courtroom than on Monday.”

Muratov described the decision as “disgraceful” but said he had been expecting it. He attributed the initial decision to let the press and public attend to human rights rapporteur Vladimir Lukin’s presence in the courtroom on November 17. “In just two days they found a pretext for holding it behind closed doors,” he said. “This is a game of politics and intrigue.” He added that the newspaper would still follow the trial and “in that sense, it will be open.”

RSF, itself, said, “Account must be taken of the position of the jurors, but holding the trial entirely behind closed doors is not the right solution. This decision just reinforces the doubts about the government’s desire to shed light on this case and to combat impunity for those who kill journalists. It is deplorable.”

Both the lawyers representing the defendants and those representing the Politkovskaya family also objected to the decision.

One of the defence lawyers, Murad Musayev, was quoted by the news website as saying, “There was no legal basis for this decision. It would have been different if the jurors had been the target of pressure. But in this case, we are talking about still cameras and video cameras, not guns.”

Politkovskaya family lawyer Karina Moskalenko said, “We hailed the original decision to have an open trial and the jurors had a chance to recuse themselves or let it be known they had received threats. It should be explained to them they have no reason to fear the Russian press or public.”

Date posted: November 19, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 328