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Prosecutors ask for removal of judge in Anna Politkovskaya murder case trial as chaos reigns

Prosecutors ask for removal of judge in Politkovskaya case trial
A protester is seen holding a picture of murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya during a demonstration for freedom of speech and the press in Sofia in this October 7, 2008 photo.Photo: Reuters / Stoyan Nenov

A Russian judge has lifted a ban on journalists covering the trial of three men accused of helping to murder journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya even as prosecutors asked for his removal over his flip-flops on media coverage.

Judge Yevgeny Zubov ruled last week that the politically charged trial would be held behind closed doors, drawing fierce criticism from Politkovskaya's family who alleged an official cover-up. The trial resumed on November 25 after an adjournment. But after about 30 minutes some journalists were allowed in, said a Reuters reporter at the scene.

Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer for Politkovskaya's family, and Murat Musayev, one of the defence team, both said the judge had decided to open the trial to the public, according to the Reuters report. "He [the judge] called in the jury and asked them if they were opposed to having an open court, and they said they were not against," Musayev said.

The trial was in disarray Tuesday after the prosecution demanded the judge be dismissed from the case, Reuters reported. Judge Zubov has reportedly been accused of bias and failing to follow correct procedures in the case. He has withdrawn from the court in Moscow while the demand is considered, with a decision expected on Wednesday. The request for his removal was made during a chaotic hearing when journalists were first barred from the courtroom, then let in and then ushered out again. A jury member was dismissed for talking to the press.

Musayev told reporters outside the courtroom that prosecutors had asked for Judge Zubov to be taken off the case soon after he lifted his own ban on media covering the trial. "They consider that various organisational questions are having an influence on the judge's opinions," he said. Prosecutors told reporters they were not authorised to comment on the case.

Politkovskaya, an award-winning reporter for the Novaya Gazeta, was one of the strongest critics in the Russian media of the Kremlin's handling of the conflict in Chechnya. She was gunned down in the entrance of her apartment building in central Moscow in October 2006.

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.

Date posted: November 25, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 282