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Russia top court reviewing judge in journalist murder trial

[JURIST] Russia's Supreme Court has decided to review the actions of a Moscow District Military Court judge presiding over the trial of three men accused in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary], according to a court spokesman quoted in local media reports [Moscow Times report; Russia Today report] Sunday. Judge Yevgeny Zubov on Wednesday ordered the proceedings to be closed [JURIST report] to the public citing alleged jury objections to allowing reporters in the courtroom, but the claim was denied in a Thursday statement [autotranslation] by one of the jurors on Ekho Moskvy [media website] radio. The judge had previously ordered that the trial be open [JURIST report]. Also on Thursday, the judge postponed the trial until December 1, citing scheduling conflicts for defense lawyers, but they have also denied having conflicts [BBC report] and are moving to have the proceedings reopened [RIA Novosti report] in light of the juror's statement. All three men in the case have pleaded not guilty.

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] widely known for her stories about human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya, was murdered [JURIST report] after returning to her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.

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