Politkovskaya Defendants Plead Not Guilty As New Trial Begins

July 24, 2013

Five men charged with the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 have pleaded not guilty at the start of their second trial in a Moscow courtroom.

The session began on July 24 despite an appeal from Politkovskaya's children for a postponement because they could not attend this week.

They have pledged to boycott further court sessions.

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Vera Politkovskaya and Ilya Politkovsky complained that the judge had appointed the jury without consulting their lawyer.

The children, who are joint plaintiffs in the case, had asked the court to wait until their lawyer was present on July 29. However, the Moscow City Court decided to proceed with the first hearing without the children being present.

The two said in a statement on July 23 that they would not attend the "illegitimate" trial. "In our absence and that of our lawyers, the judge began to select jurors and approved the jury to try the case. Thus, the court violated our rights," the statement said.

Defense attorney Murad Musayev told the court the presence of the "injured party [Politikovskaya's children] is desirable, if not required."

Nadezhda Prusenkova, a spokeswoman for the "Novaya gazeta" newspaper where Anna Politkovskaya worked, said the trial was being rushed to have it concluded before the October 7 anniversary of Politkovskaya's killing.

"We are concerned by a tendency of the authorities, by their desire and intent to complete investigations or report new facts in time for calendar anniversaries," Prusenkova said.

"Now we have a suspicion that they want to end this trial just in time for another anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's death. I think it is not right both from the standpoint of the law and from the standpoint of fairness and conscience."

'We Want A Trial, Not A Lynching'

The five suspects are ethnic Chechens Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, his nephews Rustam, Ibragim, and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, as well as Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former field investigator of the Main Internal Affairs Directorate for Moscow.

The first trial ended in 2009, with acquittals for three of the defendants. The Supreme Court overturned that decision later that year and ordered a retrial, following prosecutors' complaints about numerous procedural violations during the trial.

"Novaya gazeta's" Prusenkova said the five were likely responsible, but she that the trial proceedings were not being handled properly.

"We want a trial and not a lynching. We do not have any doubt that all the people that are going on trial were involved in this crime," she said.

"But we are against justice being served as if it is a concrete paving machine, when they break the accused across their knee and disregard not only any notion of criminal procedure rules, but also any notion of fairness and conscience."

Anna Politkovskaya reported on atrocities committed by pro-Kremlin armed groups in Chechnya, from where most of the defendants hail.

"Novaya gazeta" editor Sergei Muratov said he supported the decision by Politkovskaya's children to boycott the trial. Muratov pointed out that there was still no information on who ordered the killing.

With reporting by Interfax and AFP