[JURIST] A Russian court on Monday sentenced two men to life in prison for the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive]. Rustam Makhmudov was convicted [JURIST report] last month of pulling the trigger, and his uncle, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, was convicted of organizing the murder on behalf of an unknown party. Both men received life sentences [Moscow Times report], while Rustam’s borthers, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, were given sentences of 12 and 14 years, respectively. Former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov was sentenced to 20 years. Ibragim, Dzhabrail and Khadzhikurbanov were previously acquitted 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].
A human rights activist and critic of the Kremlin, 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. Because she was a critic of Russian governmental policies, it was widely speculated at the time of her murder that the Russian government was involved [CPJ report]. 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. Former Russian police officer Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov was found guilty [JURIST report] in December 2012 for his role in Politkovskaya’s murder. Russia’s Federal Security Service charged Rustam Makhmudov for the murder [JURIST report] in June 2011.