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Russia judge refuses to step down from Politkovskaya case

[JURIST] Moscow Military District Court judge Yevgeny Zubov Wednesday refused to recuse himself from the trial of three men accused of involvement in the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office [official website, in Russian] had requested a new judge [JURIST report] claiming that Zubov had violated procedural rules. Last week Zubov declared the trial would be open to the public in accordance with the wishes of Politkovskaya's family, then closed it [JURIST reports] due to alleged fears by members of the jury. When these were publicly denied, he opened the trial again [JURIST report]. Under court rules, only a judge himself can make a decision to leave a case. AP has more. On Thursday, members of Politkovsakaya's family testified that she had received regular threats against her life. The trial is now in recess [RIA Novosti report] until December 1.

Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, all from Chechnya, were arrested [JURIST report] in connection with the killing in August 2007. The primary suspect, Rustam Makhmudov, also from Chechnya, has yet to be captured, but Russian authorities have said he is hiding in Western Europe. On Tuesday, defense lawyers announced that court documents would show that Politkovskaya's murder was ordered by an unnamed Russian politician [RIA Novosti report]. 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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