Moscow investigaotors requalified into a political murder the killing of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, who were gunned down by suspected neo-Nazis, a source familiar with the investigation said.
Human rights lawyer Markelov, 34, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova, 25, were shot on January 19, 2009 in downtown Moscow, just a short distance from the Christ the Savior Cathedral. Markelov died at the scene and Baburova lost her struggle for life shortly afterwards in hospital.
Last November, Nikolai Tikhonov, 29, and Yevgenia Khasis, 24, members of a radical neo-Nazi nationalist group, were charged with a "murder committed by previous concert by a group of individuals".
The case made headlines all over the world and once again highlighted the dangers faced by journalists and human rights activists in Russia, which has one of the poorest journalist safety records in the world.
"Investigators requalified Tikhonov's charge. He is charged with 'murder on grounds of political, ideological, national or religious enmity,'" the source said.
Tikhonov, who first confessed to the murder, then said he had confessed to it under pressure. In line with Russian law, he can face life in prison if found guilty.
The source said Tikhonov is also suspected of the murder of anti-fascist Alexander Rukhin in April 2007. Three people have already been sentenced to prison terms from three to 6.5 years for the murder.
MOSCOW, February 24 (RIA Novosti)