News / Europe

5 Go on Trial for Murder of Anna Politkovskaya

Children of Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya, Vera (L) and Ilya look on before a court hearing in Moscow, June 3, 2013. Politkovskaya was assassinated in October 2006. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (RUSSIA  - Tags: CRIME LAW MEDIA)
Children of Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya, Vera (L) and Ilya look on before a court hearing in Moscow, June 3, 2013. Politkovskaya was assassinated in October 2006. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov (RUSSIA - Tags: CRIME LAW MEDIA)
— The children of slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya say they will not attend what they called the "illegitimate" trial of five men charged with killing their mother in 2006. Politkovskaya's reporting was critical of the Russian government, and many believe she was killed because of her reporting.

More than six years after Novaya Gazeta reporter Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in the lobby of her apartment building, five men are going on trial for her murder, some of them for the second time.

In a statement, Politkovskaya’s children, Ilya and Vera, said they had asked a judge to postpone the trial because they could not attend.  They say the judge refused.  The children then called on the jurors to recuse themselves from the trial to avoid being drawn into what they called a farce.

Chechen Rustam Makhmudov is charged with killing Politkovskaya.  His two brothers and his uncle are also accused of being involved in her death, along with an ex-policeman.

In 2009 a Moscow court acquitted three of the same defendants, but Russia’s Supreme Court threw out that verdict and sent the case back to the prosecution.

The 54-year-old journalist was shot at close range in the chest, head and shoulder on October 7, 2006, in Moscow.  At the time of her death, Politkovskaya had been investigating corruption across Russia and human-rights abuses in Chechnya.

Russia has fought two bloody separatist wars in Chechnya, where insurgents want to create an Islamist state.  There are near daily attacks on police and government officials in the area.  Some analysts blame the violence on the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent.

Politkovskaya was a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin, who was president during the conflicts.

Novaya Gazeta spokeswoman Nadezhda Prusenkova says she thinks the trial’s timing is not coincidental and worries about its validity.

She says journalists are concerned the authorities want to end this trial just in time for another anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya's death.  She says she does not think it is right, both from the standpoint of the law and from the standpoint of fairness and conscience.

Prusenkova says she has no doubt the accused are connected with Politkovskaya’s death, but she believes whoever ordered the killing will never face justice.

​Last December, a former policeman was sentenced to 11 years in prison after agreeing to a plea bargain in connection with the killing.  Politkovskaya supporters believe more could have been done to obtain information from the officer.

The Kremlin has consistently maintained it is doing everything necessary to bring Politkovskaya’s killer to justice.

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