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Defence says politician ordered Politkovskaya's murder

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2009-11-16

A Russian politician ordered the 2006 killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya as payback for articles critical of certain political figures, according to the lawyer defending those accused of her murder.

The murder of outspoken journalist Anna Politkovskaya was ordered by a Russian politician based inside the country in revenge for critical articles, a defence lawyer said Tuesday.

The lawyer's comments -- which were based on files of the case that he had seen -- came as the judge in the case decided to reopen the trial to the public just days after declaring it closed.

"In the files of the case, the motive and the individual who ordered the killing are mentioned," said lawyer Murad Musayev, who is defending one of the four men charged in connection with the killing.

"The reason for the killing is the critical reports which exposed certain political figures."

He said that previously the prosecutors had believed that the crime was ordered by someone "big and terrible based abroad.

"But in the conclusions of the accusations of the court, we see that it was not someone so big and terrible but a politician from inside the country.

"It is not clear who we are talking about," the lawyer emphasised.

Politkovskaya, who was deeply critical of the Kremlin's actions in war-torn Chechnya, was shot dead outside her Moscow home on October 7, 2006 in an apparent contract killing.

The slain journalist's supporters have long expressed scepticism over the legal process and complained that none of the four defendants being tried is charged with the actual killing.

More than two years after Politkovskaya died, authorities have failed to arrest the triggerman or identify who ordered the murder.

Meanwhile, Musayev told reporters that at Tuesday's hearing judge Yevgeny Zubov had decided to open the trial to the public.

"The judge raised the question himself and the decision was taken for the trial to be open to the public," said lawyer Musayev.

The judge had originally declared the trial open to the public but last week said it would be closed, prompting howls of protest from rights activists and even one of the jurors.

Human rights activists have said an open trial is crucial for the murder to be judged fairly.

One of the jurors even gave an interview to a radio station protesting the judge's original decision, for which he was sacked from the jury.

Politkovskaya wrote books and articles that fiercely criticised Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, notably for abuses committed by Russian forces during the second Chechen war, which he oversaw as president.

At the time, Putin called her killing "an unacceptable crime that cannot go unpunished."

One of the suspects on trial is a former agent of the FSB security service, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB. Pavel Ryaguzov is suspected of providing Politkovskaya's home address to the killer.

Two of the other defendants, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, are Chechen brothers accused of following her in her last weeks.

All the defendants have already entered not guilty pleas.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based media freedoms organisation, ranks Russia as the third deadliest country in the world for journalists after Iraq and Algeria, with 49 journalists killed since 1992.

Date created : 2008-11-25