Russia18 December 2008
Judge bars press from Politkovskaya murder trial, replaces juror
Yevgeni Zubov, the presiding judge at the Moscow trial of four men accused of journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder, today dismissed one of the jurors for repeated absences, replacing her with a substitute juror. She is the second juror to be removed, following Yevgeni Kolesov who was replaced at his own request last month. The jury now consists of 12 full members and six substitutes.
Judge Zubov ordered the press and public barred from today’s hearing on the grounds that several of the witnesses due to testify were members of the security forces, including the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB. The first witness, Vadim Zubov, was a colleague of one of the defendants, Pavel Ryaguzov, an FSB lieutenant colonel who is alleged to have given Politkovskaya’s address to the hit-men who shot her.
Politkovskaya murder trial resumes behind closed doors, then press and public allowed back in
Citing the examination of “classified” material evidence, the presiding judge barred the press and public from yesterday’s hearing in the trial of four men for journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s murder. The Moscow military court also heard evidence from a witness who is under police protection.
The Ria Novosti news agency quoted Politkovskaya family lawyer Anna Stavitskaya as saying the witness testified that one of the accused, former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, had told him that he had gathered information about Politkovskaya.
Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the repeated closed-door sessions in this case. “Judge Yevgeni Zubov’s decision to continue the trial behind closed doors has increased our concern about transparency. It prevents journalists and public from being able to evaluate the arguments, testimony and evidence presented in court.”
On 17 November, the judge had ruled in favour of allowing the press and public to attend the trial. But they were excluded two days later, only to be allowed back in again when the trial finally resumed on 25 November.
Today’s hearing also began behind closed doors, but the press and public were allowed back into the courtroom in the afternoon, when Sergei Sokolov, the editor of Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, testified. He said one of the four defendants, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, was a Federal Security Service agent.
The next hearing has been set for 9 November.