Politkovskaya murder hearings go ahead amid poisoning claims

Closed pre-trial hearings into the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya at a Moscow military court are now over. Four men are facing trial for their involvement in the killing. Three of them are charged with murder, while the fourth is accused

The hearings will continue on November 17, with jury selection to take place November18. It is yet to be decided whether journalists will be allowed into the jury trial.

On Wednesday the hearings went ahead despite the fact that Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer representing the Politkovskaya family, is in hospital after suffering suspected poisoning in Strasbourg.

Moskalenko, who lives in Strasbourg, is known for defending most prominent Russian opposition leaders. Among her clients are Mihkail Kodorkovsky, ex-chess champion Garry Kasparov and Anna Politkovskaya's family. Moskalenko went to the French police after she has found mercury drops in her car.

“Mercury fumes are poisonous. They get into the blood, destroy proteins and affect the nervous system,” said Lev Fyodorov, the President of the Russian Chemical Security Organisation. “In this situation there was a real threat. Still I have a feeling that the main purpose of putting mercury in her car was to frighten rather than to poison her. Professional killers would apply more accurate methods.”

Investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down outside her Moscow apartment on October 7, 2006. She earned international recognition for her sharp criticism of the Kremlin and human rights abuses in war-torn Chechnya.
 
The three men charged with her murder are Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, a former city police official. A fourth suspect, ex-FSB agent Pavel Ryaguzov, is accused of extortion and abuse of power after revealing details of Politkovskaya's whereabouts.

But the main suspect remains at large. Rustam Makhmudov, a 34-year-old Chechen is the man suspected by police of actually pulling the trigger. An international arrest warrant for his arrest has been issued. The question remains, however, who ordered the killing?

Two years on, people around the world still remember Anna. Most believe she was killed because of her work as a journalist, and hope this trial can begin to shed some light on her death.

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