Human rights lawyer & journalist murder solved – investigators

The Moscow City Court has charged two suspects in the double murder of a prominent Russian human rights lawyer and a journalist for an opposition newspaper.

Two suspects, Evgenia Khasis, b. 1985 and Nikita Tikhonov, b. 1980, were detained on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively in connection with the high-profile case.

Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were murdered last January after leaving a press conference detailing crimes committed in the North Caucasus. Both were shot in the head at close range.

“We have now the material uncovering certain people’s taking part in committing the crime,” said Federal Security Service (FSB) head Aleksandr Bortnikov, who met President Dmitry Medvedev to report to him on the case.

Bortnikov also said the investigation has information which in fact is the murderers’ admitting their guilt.

He reported that a radical group involved in the crime was discovered in Moscow, and a large amount of weapons were confiscated from them. The FSB head added that another hate crime case had been solved alongside the Markelov and Baburova murders. A third crime, which was being prepared by the radical group and was meant to be another high-profile case, was prevented by the security forces.

According to the investigators, the persons who committed the murder could possibly being former members of the Russian National Unity nationalist organization. The murder was supposedly revenge against the lawyer, who represented the nationalist victims’ interests in courts.

The founder of the Russian National Unity, Aleksandr Barkashov, has denied any of its members were involved in the murder.

The double murder, committed in broad daylight in the center of Moscow in front of numerous witnesses, shocked and horrified the nation. The gunman approached Markelov and Baburova right after they had attended a press conference on crime in the Caucasus region. Markelov was the main target and was shot dead on the spot. Baburova was sent to a hospital where she died later.

The media assumed the killing was a contract hit or politically motivated. Markelov was known as a lawyer representing Chechen victims of human rights violations. Anastasia Baburova, journalist of the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was a colleague of Anna Politkovskaya, who used to work in the same newspaper before being murdered in 2006.

Stanislav Markelov’s brother Mikhail, a former deputy of the Russian State Duma, said he was conducting his own investigation.

Human rights activists in Moscow confirmed that they welcome any progress in this case, but have taken the news with caution because of a lack of evidence. They refer to the case of Anna Politkovskaya, in which several men were arrested in connection with the murder, but no one has been sentenced so far.