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Russia high court sends Politkovskaya murder investigation back to prosecutors

[JURIST] The Russian Supreme Court [official website, in Russian] on Thursday ruled that the case of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] should be returned to prosecutors for further investigation. The court overturned [RIA Novosti report] a lower court decision [JURIST report] not to combine the case against Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Ibragim Makhmudov 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. Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website] welcomed the court's decision, saying [press release] it offers "a degree of hope." Also Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld [RIA Novosti report] its decision to annul the acquittal of the three suspects. Their lawyer said he plans an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights [official website].

The Supreme Court 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 [JURIST report] 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 2006 slaying.

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