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Russia judge closes journalist murder trial due to jury fears

[JURIST] A judge for the Moscow District Military Court on Wednesday ordered that the trial of three men accused in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary] be closed to the public. This essentially reversed [RIA Novosti report] his Monday decision [JURIST report] to allow an open trial. Also on Wednesday, all of the accused pleaded not guilty [RIA Novosti report] to the charges. The decision to reverse Monday's ruling came after members of the jury refused to enter the court room citing fear of being negatively targeted with all the media attention generated by the case.

Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, all from Chechnya, were arrested [JURIST report] in August 2007. The main suspect, Rustam Makhmudov, also from Chechnya, has yet to be captured, but Russian authorities have said he is hiding in Western Europe. Closed preliminary hearings in the case began [JURIST report] last month. Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [official website], was murdered [JURIST report] after returning to her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.

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