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Russia court refuses to delay Politkovskaya murder trial for further investigation

[JURIST] The Moscow Military District Court on Friday rejected a petition by prosecutors to allow further investigation into the 2006 shooting death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. The retrial of three men acquitted [JURIST report] of involvement in her death began [JURIST report] earlier this week with the prosecution asking that the case against Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov be combined with an investigation against other suspects, including Rustam Makhmudov, the brother of Dzhabrail and Ibragim, who is thought to be in hiding under an alias. Judge Nikolai Tkachuk denied the petition [RIA Novosti report], allowing the trial to proceed. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] sharply criticized [press release] the decision:

We are utterly dismayed by the Russian judicial system's inability to demonstrate any determination to solve this murder. There could not have been a worse decision just weeks after Natalia Estemirova's tragic murder and just two months before the third anniversary of Politkovskaya's death. Impunity now reigns supreme in Russia.

This decision serves to confirm that nothing can be expected from this retrial. No light will be shed on the many questions left unanswered by the original trial. The retrial will be nothing more than an empty formality.
The next hearing is set for September 7, at which time a jury will be selected.

The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] ordered the retrial [JURIST report] of the three suspects in June after prosecutors argued the trial judge made procedural errors. Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were acquitted in February after a jury found that the evidence against the three was not enough [RIA Novosti report] to support convictions. A week later, prosecutors appealed the acquittals [JURIST report]. In November 2008, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] requested a new judge [JURIST report], claiming that Moscow Military District Court judge Yevgeny Zubov had violated procedural rules. Zubov refused to recuse himself [JURIST report] from the trial. Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov were arrested [JURIST report] in August 2007 in connection with Politkovskaya's slaying.

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