Russia's Federal Security Service on Thursday charged [ITAR-TASS report] Rustam Makhmudov with the 2006 murder [JURIST report] of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], after his arrest [JURIST report] Tuesday. Makhmudov, an assumed assassin on an international most wanted list since 1997 [ITAR-TASS report], was charged with violating Article 105, murder; Article 126, abduction; Article 178, extortion; and Article 222, illegal acquisition of firearms, of the Russian Criminal Code [text]. If convicted, he is expected to receive life imprisonment, the highest sentence possible under those articles of the criminal code. The Federal Security Services is proceeding on the belief that Makhmudov was hired to kill Politkovskaya and did not act alone.
A human rights activist and critic of the Kremlin, Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in an elevator of her apartment building in Moscow as she was returning home. Politkovskaya investigated human rights abuses in Chechnya and high-level corruption across Russia, and her death raised concerns about the safety of journalists and other critics of the government. At the time she was working for the low-circulation independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta [official website, in Russian] where she was writing reports on Chechnya. Her death was widely believed to be a contract killing. Two of Makhmudov's brothers and a former police officer are currently awaiting trial for the murder in Moscow. A district court acquitted those three men in February 2009 due to a lack of prosecutorial evidence, but the Russian Supreme Court vacated the acquittal and ordered a reinvestigation of the case [JURIST reports].