Relatives sceptical as Politkovskaya retrial is adjourned

A second trial over the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been adjourned following a complaint by relatives of the victim who question the authorities' will to solve the case and call for a new investigation.


AFP - A Russian court Wednesday opened a new trial into the murder of anti-Kremlin journalist Anna Politkovskaya, but efforts to solve the 2006 killing that sparked global outrage were still mired in delays.

The new trial at a Moscow military court followed the supreme court's decision in June to overturn acquittal verdicts handed out to all the suspects in the previous process.

However there appeared little chance of the new trial gaining much momentum -- almost three years after the killing -- with her family and even prosecutors saying an entirely new investigation was needed in the case.

Politkovskaya, who was sharply critical of Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin and his policies in Chechnya, was gunned down in the stairwell of her apartment building on October 7, 2006 in an apparent contract killing.

The investigation has long been criticised by rights groups who say the failure of the authorities to achieve any results in the case have created a culture of impunity in Russia.

The three suspects on trial are all accused of being accessories to the murder and the authorities have still failed to find the triggerman, let alone identify the mastermind of the killing.

Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov are accused of acting as drivers at the murder scene for the killer, who prosecutors say was a third brother, Rustam, who is still at large.

Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police investigator, is charged with providing logistical assistance for the killing.

The Politkovskaya family legal team called for the entire case to be sent back to the prosecutors' office for a new investigation on the grounds that the previous probe was flawed.

"The sole problem in this case is that the crime has not been solved and the investigation is incomplete," said Karinna Moskalenko, lawyer for the Politkovskaya family.

"Only the prosecutors can eliminate the problems that we saw in the previous trial and we are seeing again in this trial."

Meanwhile, prosecutor Amaliya Ustayeva agreed that the case into the three suspects could be returned to the prosecutors' office and integrated with the probe into the suspected killer and the as yet unknown mastermind.

"I suggest that for the full investigation of the criminal case, the two cases can be combined," she said.

Defence lawyer Murad Musayev said he would not stand in the way of the request for the case to be sent back to the prosecutors.

"The desire of the bereaved is clear. They want an objective, efficient and complete investigation.

"Sending it back to the prosecutors will not permit an objective enquiry but despite this I will not oppose the request."

Judge Nikolai Tkachuk declared the trial adjourned until Friday.

Politkovskaya had written dozens of articles for her Novaya Gazeta newspaper and a book called "Putin's Russia" accusing the Russian strongman of using the Chechen conflict to strangle democracy in the country.

The murder last month of prominent Russian rights activist Natalya Estemirova -- who worked continuously with Politkovskaya to investigate abuses by Russia forces in Chechnya -- has again brought the case to the fore.

Politkovskaya relied on Estemirova as a source and co-investigator in many of the acclaimed reports detailing horrific abuses during the Kremlin's war in Chechnya.

"This atmosphere of impunity is responsible for the amount of crimes against journalists," said Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta.

"The situation is paradoxical in Russia: the assassins of journalists feel closer to power than the journalists themselves," Muratov said.

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