[JURIST] A lawyer for one of the men accused in the killing of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary, JURIST news archive] alleged in his closing statements Tuesday that the prosecution's main pieces of evidence are flawed and have been fabricated. Defense lawyer Murad Musayev pointed out that phone records released by the telephone operator Megafon show evidence of manipulation. Musayev's two-hour closing statements also alleged [Moscow Times report] that the murder was actually committed by a group of professional killers who left no traces. Other irregularities during the trial have included a lost DVD [IFEX report] with footage from a security camera and claims [AP report] by the alleged organizer of the murder Sergei Khadzhikurbanov that he was offered a reduced sentence if he lied about the intellectual author of the murder. Since the trial opened in October, judge Yevgeni Zubov has closed and then opened the proceedings to the public three times [JURIST news archive], citing juror security concerns, which were denied by the jury, and the presentation of classified information.
Politkovskaya, a Novaya Gazeta reporter known for her reports on human rights abuses by Russian soldiers in Chechnya, was murdered in October 2006. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 42 journalists [JURIST report] were killed in Russia between 1992 and 2006. In its 2008 Annual Report [text], Reporters Without Borders ranked [rankings] Russia 144 of 169 countries in their press freedom index, citing authority reluctance to investigate killings, journalists forcibly sent to psychiatric hospitals, and much pressure exerted on independent media.