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Russia17 November 2008

Public admitted to Politkovskaya murder trial with no mastermind or hit-man among the defendants

“Allowing the public and press to attend the trial is a good decision, given the importance of the case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The murder victim was an outspoken and independent journalist who dedicated her professional life to making the public aware of aspects of reality that many people would have liked to cover up. We have a debt towards here. We owe her transparency in the investigation and in the trial of her murderers.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Regardless of the outcome of this trial, this case will not be over until those who ordered Politkovskaya’s murder and the gunman who carried it out have been identified and brought to justice.”

When Reporters Without Borders hosted a news conference by Politkovskaya’s son, Ilya Politkovski, in Paris on 3 October, he urged Politkovskaya’s fellow journalists not to forget her. “It is important that the media attention does not let up,” he said.

He also reported that the family had brought a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights accusing the Russian state of “violating the right to life” under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The four men on trial are Pavel Ryaguzov, a lieutenant-colonel in the Federal Security Service (FSB), Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer specialised in combating organised crime, and two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibrahim Makhmudov. Khadzhikurbanov is accused of helping to organise the contract killing. The Makhmudov brothers are regarded as accomplices.

When today’s hearing began, the judges ruled in favour of allowing the public and press to attend. The fact that one of the defendants is an FSB officer and that, according to one of the defence lawyers, the evidence includes classified documents were not deemed to be sufficient grounds for holding the trial behind closed doors.

Jury selection is to be decided in tomorrow’s hearing. It is not known how long the trial will last.

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