MOSCOW, June 3 (RIA Novosti) – The Moscow City Court on Monday started preliminary hearings into the 2006 high-profile murder of Russian investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, the RAPSI legal news service reported.
Politkovskaya, a reporter with the opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta daily, known for her scathing criticism of both the Kremlin and the North Caucasus authorities over human rights abuses and the war in Chechnya, was shot dead in the elevator of her apartment building on October 7, 2006.
Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a businessman from the Russian republic of Chechnya, stands accused of organizing the murder on the request of an unknown mastermind for $150,000.
The prosecutors allege that he hired three of his relatives – Rustam, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov – and former police official Sergei Khadzhikurbanov to carry out the killing. Rustam Makhmudov is accused of being the one who pulled the trigger.
Another suspect in the case, former police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, has signed a plea bargain and was convicted in a separate trial from the others. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December.
Two of the Makhmudov brothers, Ibragim and Dzhabrail, and Khadzhikurbanov were tried on the same charges and acquitted in a jury trial in 2009. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling, citing insufficient evidence, and ordered a retrial. A new investigation into the case has been launched.
A spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, Vladimir Markin, said that during the second investigation sufficient evidence was collected to prove the guilt of the suspects.
“The investigation has collected … evidence to prove the involvement of the suspects into the Anna Politkovskaya murder. Unfortunately, I’m unable to disclose it at present in order to ensure the due process and impartiality of the trial. But I assure that together with the evidence already made public, it will allow the court to understand the circumstances of this case and pass a fair verdict,” he said.
The preliminary hearings, during which the sides file their motions and the presiding judge sets the date when the trial itself is to begin, will be closed to the public and the media. It is yet unclear whether the trial itself will be open.
During the preliminary hearings, the court is also to decide whether the case should be heard by a jury, as requested by the defense team.
The defense team has asked for the case to be returned to the prosecutor's office, saying the indictment was compiled with violations of the Criminal Procedural Code, defense lawyer Anna Stavitskaya told RAPSI.
The prosecutors have asked the court to extend the detention of the three suspects held in remand for another six months, as well as the travel restrictions enforced on the other two individuals.
Judge Pavel Melekhin is to announce his decision on these motions when the hearings resume on Tuesday.