MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti) – Five men accused of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya pleaded not guilty in Moscow on Wednesday at the start of a trial being boycotted by the slain investigative reporter’s children.
Politkovskaya, who harshly criticized the Kremlin and authorities of Russia’s North Caucasus region in her stories for the opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was gunned down in the elevator of her apartment building on October 7, 2006. Her murder caused an international outcry amid widespread allegations of government involvement.
Three of the five suspects standing trial at the Moscow City Court were already tried and acquitted in a jury trial in 2009. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling and ordered a retrial. Prosecutors have failed to identify the mastermind behind the killing.
Politkovskaya’s children, Vera and Ilya, said in a statement published Tuesday on Novaya Gazeta’s website that they refuse to participate in the second trial because the jury was approved without their participation and the trial set for a date when the siblings could not attend, making it “deliberately illegitimate.”
Under Russian law, plaintiffs have the right to participate in the selection of the jury, and be notified about the selection before the trial.
Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said that prosecutors are allowed to pick jurors in the absence of plaintiffs if the plaintiffs are “duly notified.”
She said it was “inadmissible” to prolong the jury selection process any longer.
Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, a businessman from the Russian republic of Chechnya, stands accused of organizing the murder at the request of an unidentified mastermind for $150,000. Prosecutors claim 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 having pulled the trigger. The other two Makhmudovs were acquitted in 2009.
Another suspect in the case, former police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, signed a plea bargain and was convicted in a separate trial from the others. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison last December.