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Russia suspect confesses to killing human rights lawyer

[JURIST] A lawyer for the man accused of the double murder [JURIST report] of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova said Friday that his client has confessed to the crime. Nikita Tikhonov and female companion Yevgenia Khasis were arrested Thursday and brought before the Basmanny District Court. In an interview [materials, in Russian] on the radio program Echo Moskvy, Tikhonov's lawyer, Yevgeny Skripelev, said Tikhonov did not intend to kill [Interfax report, in Russian] Baburova and murdered Markelov out of personal animosity rather than ideological grounds. Skripelev refuted claims that Tikhonov was part of the banned ultra-nationalist group Russian National Unity, insisting that he operated on his own accord. Markelov gained notoriety as director the the Rule of Law Institute [advocacy website] prosecuting human rights abuses in Chechnya. He was leaving a press conference concerning his appeal against the early parole [Moscow Times report] of Yuri Budanov, a former Russian military commander convicted of murdering a Chechen woman, when he and Babarova were shot in broad daylight in front of the Kropotkinskaya metro station.

Markelov represented famed journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], who was shot to death [JURIST report] in October 2006. To date, no one has been convicted [JURIST report] of Politkovskaya's murder. Markelov, Barbarova, and Politkovskaya are among many Russian human rights activists and journalists who have been murdered recently. Earlier this summer, Chechen human rights activist Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik Dzhabrailov were found dead [JURIST report] in the trunk of their car after being abducted in front of their workplace. The killings came less than a month after the death [JURIST report] of Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova [BBC obituary]. In July, the body of Russian human rights activist Andrei Kulagin [JURIST report] was found in a quarry. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that, between 1992 and 2006, 42 journalists were killed [JURIST report] in Russia.

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