Russia25 November 2008
Politkovskaya trial will after all be open to press and public
A Moscow military court that is trying four men for journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder ruled today that the press and public will not after all be barred from the courtroom after one of the defendant’s lawyers, Murad Musayev, said the jurors were not opposed to an open trial.
The court had announced on 19 November, when the last hearing was held, that the trial would be held behind closed doors at the jury’s request. But the next day, in an interview for independent radio Echo Moskvy, one of the jurors denied that the jury had made any such request. The juror was dropped the jury today at his request.
When presiding judge Yevgeny Zubov adjourned the trial on 19 November, he scheduled the next hearing for 10 December. But a few days later, it was brought forward to today.
Musayev also told journalists a few minutes before the start of today’s hearing that the person who ordered Politkovskaya’s murder was a Russian politician. Yesterday, the head of the Russian prosecutor’s office investigation committee, Alexander Bastrykin, insisted that the identity of the person who ordered her murder was still unknown.
Politkovskaya trial juror denies that jury requested exclusion of press
In an interview today for independent radio Echo Moskvy, a member of the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial jury denied that the jury yesterday asked for the press and public to be excluded, saying it was the clerk of the court who asked them to sign a statement to this effect which they had not drafted, Reporters Without Borders has learned from the radio station’s staff.
Juror Yevgeny Kolesov told Echo Moskvy that the jurors gathered at around 11:30 a.m. yesterday, when the hearing was supposed to start, but they had to kick their heels for about an hour and a half. “We did not understand why it was taking so long. We assumed that organisational questions were being sorted out.”
Kolesov continued: “We were told we could go and have lunch at around 1:30, but before that, the clerk of the court came to see us several times and told us that there were a lot of journalists and that this might bother us. She said some of us would undoubtedly prefer not to see any cameras during the trial.
“After that, the clerk of the court brought a document for us to sign, in which it was written that we were opposed to the presence of the press because we were afraid. No one signed it. We replied that we wanted to see how the hearing went first, that it should start with the press there. We would decide later whether to ask the journalists to leave the courtroom. We did not decide that the press should be excluded.”
The jurors subsequently wrote a letter to the court saying that they “had made no statement during the trial and had only asked for a ban on filming with video cameras, but were not opposed to the print media attending the trial.”
Kolesov has also, in his own name, prepared a statement to the court asking to be dropped from the jury because he does not want to be party to a rigged trial.
The next hearing is set for 10 December.