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Russia15 May 2006

Prosecutor asks supreme court to overturn Klebnikov case acquittal

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern about the petition filed today by prosecutor Dmitri Shokhin asking the supreme court to overturn a Moscow jury’s acquittal on 5 May of three men accused of the July 2004 murder of US journalist Paul Klebnikov. Shokhin had already threatened to do this.

“We hailed the jury’s verdict because it supported the doubts we have voiced from the outset about the seriousness of the investigation carried out by the authorities,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This was the first time a jury trial was held in Russia in the case of a murdered journalist and we would not want the prosecutors to use procedural errors to get the defendants convicted at all costs, as their guilt was not clearly established.”

The press freedom organisation added: “If pressure was put on the jury, as the prosecutor seems to be implying, the authorities should look into this. Meanwhile we remain convinced that the investigation into Klebnikov’s murder should start again from scratch.”

Russian law does not allow prosecutors to appeal against a verdict. But they can ask the supreme court to overturn it if they can prove procedural violations. The local press has reported rumours of pressure being put on the jury.

The lawyer for one of the defendants, Ruslan Koblev, said he was amazed by the prosecutor’s decision to challenge the trial’s outcome. He said the verdict could only be quashed if it was established that the rights of both sides had been violated, adding that he doubted that the court could have committed any offence against the prosecutor’s office.

5 May 2006

The Klebnikov Trial: Reporters Without Borders welcomes the verdict and calls for a new investigation

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“We welcome the jury’s verdict-which came as a surprise to the general public-finding the three alleged murderers of the journalist innocent due to lack of evidence. This verdict confirms the doubts that Reporters Without Borders has been expressing since the start of the case as to how seriously the authorities were conducting the investigation, and the official contention advanced by the prosecutor’s office which, up until now, had favored only one theory: that of the Chechen lead. “

“We have always stressed that many criminals and statesmen had reasons to hold a grudge against the journalist because of his investigative work on alleged links between Chechen separatists and Kremlin representatives. The Klebnikov case always seemed more complex to us than the theory advanced by the prosecutor. “

“We demand that a new investigation be initiated that will follow up all likely leads, so that some light can be shed on the identity of the perpetrators and those who hired them to commit this crime. The whole case should be tried all over again from the beginning“, asserted Reporters Without Borders.

On May 5, the jurors—with a majority vote—found the three alleged murderers of Paul Klebnikov innocent. They were immediately released.

The trial had begun on January 10, 2006, behind closed doors. On May 2, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Dmitri Chokhine, had asked members of the jury to find the three accused defendants guilty. Fail Sadretdinov, a Moscow notary and native of Tartary, and two Chechens, Moussa Vakhaev and Kazbek Doukouzov, had pleaded not guilty.

Paul Klebnikov, editor of the Russian edition of the American magazine Forbes, was shot to death in Moscow on July 4, 2004

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