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Russia / Francia14 October 2008

Apparent attempt to poison Politkovskaya family lawyer in Strasbourg

Reporters Without Borders is appalled to learn that the Russian lawyer who represents the family of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya may have been the target of a deliberate poisoning attempt with mercury in France.

If this is confirmed by forensic tests, the organisation calls on the French authorities to recognise the gravity of the case, to protect the victim’s family and to ensure that a thorough investigation identifies those responsible.

“This clearly seems to echo other recent cases of poisoning of Russian dissidents,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the earlier cases may have paved the way for further criminal activity of the same kind. The French authorities must undertake to ensure that the police and judicial authorities have the resources they need to establish all the aspects of this case, identify everyone responsible, and bring them to justice.”

The Politkovskaya family lawyer, Karina Moskalenko, told Reporters Without Borders that her husband by chance discovered many balls of a silvery liquid similar to mercury under the floor mats of their car when cleaning it on 12 October. The police carried out a preliminary examination of the car and took samples for forensic tests, the results of which should be available “in a few days.”

Moskalenko has filed a formal complaint with the police in Strasbourg, where she lives with her husband and children. She and her children have been examined in a Strasbourg hospital because they have “symptoms of poisoning.” She said she did not know how long the presumably toxic substance had been in the car.

She declined to suggest who might be responsible for the apparent poisoning attempt until the results of the initial police investigation are known. “I do not know if it was an attempt to intimidate me or eliminate me,” she told Reporters Without Borders. She nonetheless said she thought there was “a link” with her work as a lawyer, adding that she was concerned for her children’s safety.

Moskalenko was supposed to have travelled to Moscow for a preliminary hearing tomorrow in the trial of Politkovskaya’s accused murderers before a military court. A reporter for the Moscow-based Novaya Gazeta newspaper, Politkovskaya was gunned down in her Moscow apartment building on 7 October 2006.

Moskalenko also represents Natalia Morar, a young Moldovan journalist who had been prevented from entering Russia for nearly a year, former Yukos owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and many other Russian citizens who have brought a complaint against Russia before the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

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