Supreme Court reopens search for Politkovskaya killers

The Russian supreme court has approved a request from the family of slain investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya (pictured) for a new investigation to be opened into who ordered and carried out the 2006 murder of the fierce Kremlin critic.


AFP - Russia on Thursday ordered a new search for the assassins of journalist Anna Politkovskaya after failing to shed light on the murder in the three years since her killing shocked the world.

The Russian supreme court approved a motion brought by Politkovskaya's family for the case to be brought back to prosecutors for a fresh investigation into who carried out and ordered the killing.

"Our demand was entirely satisfied," Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer for the Politkovskaya family told AFP.

Russia has still failed to find either the actual killer or the mastermind of the October 7, 2006 murder when the bitterly anti-Kremlin reporter was shot dead in her stairwell after returning from a shopping trip.

The slain reporter's family had denounced as a farce a decision last month by a Moscow court to continue a new trial in the absence of the suspected killer and warned they wanted to take no further part in the proceedings.

Her son Ilya Politkovsky told AFP that he applauded the latest decision, which means the new trial has been halted.

"It is a just decision and we support it. The investigators now have a new chance to make a breakthrough to solve this case," he said.

The three suspects charged are all accused of being accessories to the murder. In a long running saga, they were acquitted by jury in February before that decision was overturned by the supreme court in June.

The supreme court's latest decision means that the case against the three suspects will be bundled with the search for the killer and the mastermind.

Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov are accused of acting as drivers for the killer while Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police investigator, is charged with providing logistical assistance for the killing.

A third Makhmudov brother -- Rustam -- is accused by prosecutors of being the assassin but remains on the run.

"The case will next come to court when Rustam Makhmudov is caught," said prosecutors spokeswoman Vera Pashkovskaya, according to Russian news agencies.

She said there would be no probe into the three existing suspects and their charges remained the same but there would be new investigations into the role of Rustam Makhmudov.

"The prosecutors have a new chance. I hope that they will utilise it. We should not forget that three years have passed and the crime has still not been solved," said Moskalenko.

Murad Musayev, lawyer for one of the brothers, said the decision from the supreme court had been expected and expressed confidence the trio would be acquitted "in an objective and efficient enquiry".

Rights groups and Western countries have expressed bewilderment at Russia's failure to bring justice for Politkovskaya, one of the few journalists prepared to criticise president turned Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

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 issue has been sent back for a complete and exhaustive probe. It is very important and correct," said Dmitry Muratov, the editor-in-chief of the Novaya Gazeta.

"It is vital that the case is united with that of those who ordered the killing."

The lack of security for Russian activists was again underlined this year when Politkovskaya's friend and prominent rights activist Natalya Estemirova was shot dead after being abducted in Chechnya.

Putin said in the days after her murder that the killing was an "an unacceptable crime that cannot go unpunished" but also described her ability to influence political life in Russia as "insignificant".

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