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18 Jun, 2008 11:36

Three to face trial for Politkovskaya murder

Three people are to stand trial for the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. It comes as a result of the preliminary investigation which has now been concluded.

The investigating committee at the Moscow prosecutor general's office named the three as Sergey Khadzhikurbanov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibragim Makhmudov.

Another suspect, Pavel Ryaguzov, has been charged with lesser offences, including abuse of office and extortion.

Politkovskaya’s murder sent shock-waves around the world. She was gunned down in her apartment building in Moscow in October 2006. 

A journalist for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, she gained international recognition for her criticism of the Kremlin and reports of military atrocities against civilians in the troubled Caucasus republic of Chechnya.

While investigators say the probe has been finalized, colleagues who were close to Politkovskaya at Novaya Gazeta say the mystery is far from over.

Deputy editor Sergey Sokolov said: “The investigation is finished in regards to only the three people in question. But as for other people involved – the ones who have been identified and those who are still to be identified, like the killer and the person who ordered the murder – they are set apart into a separate group. The investigation will be continued.”

When Politkovskaya was killed critics quickly pointed fingers, with the Kremlin among those accused. But Sokolov says such assertions are political and are lacking in evidence.

“As soon as the murder happened, we’ve seen many experts appear on TV with their versions of events, which were based solely on their personal political engagement,” he said. “Some of them pronounced the Kremlin guilty of the murder just some hours after it happened without giving any sound reasoning.”

He added: “There were others who said that it was done on behalf of Kadyrov. Yet others said it was the FSB. And others – that Berezovsky was behind it. People, especially those in power, should have sound reasons for making such statements. If they have facts and proof – let them come and testify”.

Although Politkovskaya’s colleagues believe the case is moving in the right direction and a murder trial will be held they expect more details could be revealed in time.

The case of the man who is suspected to have carried out the killing, Rustam Makhmudov, continues separately.

But Russian prosecutors have dropped a probe against another suspect, Shamil Burayev. The former head of Chechnya's western Achkhoi-Martan district was accused of obtaining the journalist's address and passing it on to the other suspects in the murder. He was released on bail.

Burayev’s lawyer, Andrey Chuvelov, said: “The investigation was dropped in the absence of criminal action by Burayev aimed at assisting the murder of the journalist.”