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Russia court opens preliminary hearings in journalist murder case

[JURIST] The Moscow District Military Court opened closed preliminary hearings Wednesday on the killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The hearings began without prominent human rights lawyer Karina Moskalenko, who is representing Politkovskaya's family, because the lawyer fell ill Wednesday, giving rise to suspicions that she was poisoned [London Times report], possibly by mercury later found in her car. The trial judge rejected an argument by the Politkovskaya family to stay the hearing until Moskalenko could be present. The actual trial of the three men accused in the murder is scheduled to begin on November 17. Reuters has more.

Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, all from Chechnya [JURIST news archive], were arrested last August [JURIST report] in connection with the inquiry into Politkovskaya's murder. The main suspect, Rustam Makhmudov, also from Chechnya, has yet to be captured but Russian authorities have said he is hiding in Western Europe. In May, Makhmudov was charged in absentia [Moscow News report] and an international warrant for his arrest was issued. Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [media website, in Russian], was shot [JURIST report] in the head and chest after returning to her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.

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