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Russian prosecutors urge judge's dismissal as journalist murder trial reopened

[JURIST] Moscow Military District Court Judge Yevgeny Zubov on Tuesday reopened to the public the trial of three men accused of murdering journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] amid increasing confusion and calls from prosecutors for his removal from the case. Last Monday, Zubov ordered the trial to be open [JURIST report], in accordance with the wishes of Politkovskaya's family [AFP report]. Two days later, Zubov ordered the trial closed to the public and media [JURIST report], citing concern for the safety of the jury. A juror later told a Moscow radio station that he and other jurors did not fear for their safety [Moscow Times report], and Russia's Supreme Court later announced that it would review Zubov's decision [JURIST report] to close the trial. Zubov reopened the trial Tuesday as 19 of 20 jurors signed a statement [NYT report] confirming that they had not complained to the judge. The Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] subsequently requested that Zubov be replaced [BBC report] for allegedly violating procedural rules. Also Tuesday, defense lawyers announced that court documents would show that Politkovskaya's murder was ordered by an unnamed Russian politician [RIA Novosti report]. The Moscow Times has local coverage.

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. 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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