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Russia16 March 2009

Official issued Politkovskaya killer with fake passport

The prosecutor-general’s office announced on 13 March that it is prosecuting a woman employed by the Federal Migration Service in Chechnya, Milana Mezhiyeva, for issuing a forged passport to Rustam Makhmudov, the alleged triggerman in the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya.

Mezhiyeva, who was in charge of issuing passports in Chechnya, gave Makhmudov a passport in the name of a person who had been dead since 2001, the prosecutor-general’s office said. Sold to him on 9 December 2007 for 100 dollars, it enabled him to flee the country, officials added. An international warrant has been issued for Makhmudov’s arrest.


Prosecutors appeal against Politkovskaya murder trial acquittal

The prosecutor general’s office filed an appeal before the supreme court on 27 February against the acquittal of three men who were accused in connection with the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya. A jury found the three men not guilty on 19 February at the end of a trial before a Moscow military court.

“We point out that the Politkovskaya murder has not been solved,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The three men tried by the Moscow military court did not include the triggerman or the person who ordered the murder. The investigation should continue regardless of this decision.”

Politkovskaya was gunned down in the lobby of her Moscow apartment building on 7 October 2006.


(JPEG) The jury of a Moscow military court today found three men - brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov - not guilty of organising the October 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who worked for the independent biweekly Novaya Gazeta. They could have faced life imprisonment if convicted. The prosecutor’s office said it would appeal against their acquittal.

“This verdict is the result of an incomplete investigation that was brought to trial prematurely,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Furthermore, the irregularities, inconsistencies and lack of transparency during the trial, from which the public was repeatedly barred and which began with a controversy, mean the case cannot be regarded as over. Until the triggerman and the masterminds are identified, it will be impossible to know who ordered this murder and why. Everything remains to be done.”

The press freedom organisation continued : “Politkovskaya’s death is emblematic of the plight of both investigative journalists and human rights activists in Russia. We have recently seen further examples of the violence to which they are exposed. We call on the Russian authorities to combat impunity by all necessary means including effective judicial proceedings.”

The organisation added : “Our thoughts are with Politkovskaya’s family and colleagues. We assure them of our support in the search for the truth.”

Rassemblement en hommage à Anna Politkovskaïa, 2006

Before the jurors withdrew to reach a verdict, judge Evgeni Zubov reminded them of their duties and asked them to address a list of 17 questions. The first seven concerned the parallel charge of abuse of authority brought against Khadzhikurbanov and former FSB Lt. Col. Pavel Ryaguzov. The other nine questions concerned the actual murder. According to the jury, the prosecution failed to prove the involvement of any of the suspects.

The Politkovskaya family said it was satisfied with the verdict.

The accused - AFP

Dzhabrail Makhmudov’s lawyer, Murad Musayev, said in his summing-up : “All those who have been in the courtroom have been able to see the inconsistencies of the

prosecution case (...) We have also seen how the prosecutors avoided any debate about these charges, trying to confuse the jurors.” He called for an acquittal on the grounds that “the prosecution has failed to establish the guilt of the accused.” He nonetheless described Zubov as “one of the best presiding judges” he had ever seen.

The prosecutors insisted that the statements of witnesses and the telephone records presented to the court established the guilt of the defendants. “I have no doubt that the Makhmudov brothers and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov participated in this murder,” prosecutor Yulia Safina said.

Karina Moskalenko, the lawyer representing the Politkovskaya family, said her clients were “both satisfied and dissatisfied with the trial,” adding that “the key objective, defence of the rights and interests of the victims, was not achieved.” In her summing up, she said she was satisfied with the behaviour of both the prosecution and the defence, as each had “played their role.”

(JPEG) Aged 48 and the mother of two children, Politkovskaya was well known for her coverage of the Russian Caucasus, which she had visited many times. She was also an outspoken critic of then President Vladimir Putin. She was gunned down in the lift of her apartment building on Lesnaya Street in Moscow on 7 October 2006, Putin’s birthday.

The trial of the three men accused of participating in her murder began last November. It was held before a military court on the grounds that one of the defendants was a member of the security forces.

Russia was ranked 141st out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Twenty journalists have been killed in connection with their work since March 2000.

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