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29 Nov, 2008 16:14

It took him just 24 seconds to kill Politkovskaya

The jury at the hearing into the murder of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya has been shown chilling evidence of the last moments of her life. Video from the two cctv cameras reveals that it took the killer only 24 seconds to commit his evil crime.

The prosecutors have shown the jury images from the two cctv cameras near the journalist’s house on the day she was murdered. The video shows that it took the killer only 24 seconds to commit the crime.

It’s also clear from the video evidence that Politkovskaya had been shadowed for several days before the murder.

On the day when she was killed a man wearing a baseball cap went into the stairwell of her apartment block. Ten minutes later Politkovskaya came in. After shooting her five times, the murderer left. The video shows him walking quickly away from the scene.

On Thursday the court began hearing evidence from the murdered journalist’s family.

The son of prominent journalist Anna Politkovskaya says his mother had been menaced for five years in connection with her writings before she was assassinated in 2006. Ilya Politkovsky was giving evidence at a murder hearing in Moscow District Military Court.

However, he said that he had never seen the defendants accused in connection with his mother's murder before.  Ilya Poitkovsky added that he doesn’t know whether they were mentioned in any of her articles.

In her turn, the assassinated journalist’s daughter, Vera, said her mother mentioned on more than one occasion that she had seen “strange people” at the entrance of their apartment block.

“She [Anna Politkovskaya] said those people smell alcohol which meant they were not drunkards, but they were very strange. She asked me to be cautious,” Politkovskaya’s daughter told the court.

Earlier, Judge Evgeny Zubov said the proceedings would take up to 45 days and refused prosecution demands that he step down because of alleged bias.

The court rejected the claim in a ruling read out by Judge Zubov himself.

Lawyers from both sides are reported to be satisfied with the court’s decision.

To follow the dramatic developments during the Politkovskaya murder trial, please click on the link.

Judge stands firm

The state prosecutor had challenged the judge, pointing to an abuse of procedure.

Lawyers of the family and the defence, however, rejected the claims.

Politkovskaya family lawyer Anna Stavitskaya said “We didn’t support the appeal because we do not see any legal grounds for it.”

On Tuesday a decision was taken to reopen the hearings to the public. It has been the second such reversal in just a week.

Praising the decision, Defence lawyer Murad Musayev said “free speech and democracy have held a victory in this trial. The proceedings will be open; the press will be admitted to the courtroom,” he said.

Musayev said the decision was reversed “because the secret has come out. The trial was initially closed, but a fraud that had taken place has been revealed, thanks to one of the jurors and thousands of journalists. So the court had no other option than to open the hearings.”

Citing case files, Musayev told journalists that an unidentified Russian politician ordered the killing of Politkovskaya.

The decision to reopen the trial comes after controversial developments in the case. The lawyers for both the defence and the victim's family wanted the hearings to be open to the media. But the judge said jurors feared for their safety, and closed the doors in one of the most notorious trials in modern Russian history.

One of the jurors, Yevgeny Kolesov, told the media that the jury had said nothing of the kind:

“All the jurors were outraged that they'd been made fools of. Everyone was discussing it. I'd prepared a statement to the judge where I said none of it was true – that we hadn't made any requests, and that I wanted to be taken off the panel as I don't want to take part in an unfair trial. Small lies lead to big lies. That's it.”

Kolesov was released from duty.

Anna Politkovskaya, an investigative journalist from the opposition Novaya Gazeta newspaper was shot dead outside her apartment in Moscow on October 7, 2006.

Three men have been charged with involvement in the murder: a former police official Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and Chechen brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov. The three defendants charged in connection with the murder deny all the accusations against them.

Another suspect, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov, has been accused of extortion and abuse of power after revealing details of Politkovskaya's whereabouts.

However, the main suspect remains at large. The eldest of the Makhmudov brothers, 34-year-old Rustam, is suspected by police of actually pulling the trigger. An international arrest warrant for his arrest has been issued.

The identity of the person who ordered the killing remains unknown, though the murder is thought to be related to Anna Politkovskaya's work.

The pioneering journalist was renowned for her investigative articles which criticised the government, the security services and Russia's policy in Chechnya.

Politkovskaya judge under scrutiny by Supreme Court

Politkovskaya murder jury chosen