- Chechnya - Journalism - murder - Russia
AFP - Supporters of slain investigative reporter and fierce Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya gathered Tuesday in Moscow to mark the second anniversary of her death and demand her killers be brought to justice.
More than 200 people gathered under heavy rain on a Moscow square with a portrait of Politkovskaya, who exposed human rights violations in Chechnya and was gunned down outside her Moscow apartment on October 7, 2006.
"We demand an open trial for the killers," read a banner unfurled by youths as other activists watched by several police handed out flowers and issues of the daily she worked for, Novaya Gazeta, on a square named after the emblemic Russian writer Alexander Pushkin.
"Anna Politkovskaya was a hero of our time," said Sophia, an 84-year-old retired teacher. "She wasn't afraid of anything."
Politkovskaya's death sparked outrage among Western governments and calls for Russia to address the issue of attacks on journalists.
Many suspect that the murder was related to Politkovskaya's work exposing human rights abuses in Chechnya.
Two years on, three people have been charged in connection with the crime, but the suspected gunman himself is still at large and authorities have not pinpointed who ordered the apparent contract killing.
In June, suspected gunman Rustam Makhmudov, an ethnic Chechen, was charged in absentia with the murder. Russian authorities say he has fled to Western Europe.
Police have however detained his brothers -- Dzhabrail and Ibragim -- and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former officer in the Moscow city police's organised crime unit, and accused them of helping organise the murder.
Politkovskaya's colleagues and supporters abroad have expressed concern about the investigation and a trial due shortly of a former Russian secret service officer suspected of being linked to the killers, Pavel Ryaguzov.
"We will not let ourselves be fooled," said Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov. "As long as the killer and the mastermind remain free, the investigation is not over."
He went on to accuse secret service officers, known colloquially as Chekists, of leaking information to the detriment of the investigation.
"As long as traitors from the ranks of Chekist generals leak secret information from the investigation, allowing the killers to remain at large, Anna's case is still open," he said.
Ryaguzov was initially accused of giving Politkovskaya's address to the suspected killers.
He is now accused of abuse of power and extortion -- crimes he allegedly committed along with one of the three murder suspects -- and as an FSB officer he is due to face trial in a closed military court.
Russia's Kommersant daily reported Tuesday that Ryaguzov's trial could be held in secret, a prospect that prompted criticism by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
The committee "calls on authorities at Moscow District Military Court to open the trial in the murder of our colleague Anna Politkovskaya to the press and the public," CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement Monday.
"Then and only then will a fair trial be possible," he said.