Anna Politkovskaya – the trial begins

Friederike Behr blogs from Russia on the Anna Politkovskaya murder trial

Anna Politkovskaya - murdered on 6 October 2006. ©Katja Tähjä

Anna Politkovskaya - murdered on 6 October 2006. ©Katja Tähjä

The jury hearing of the trial into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya has been going on now for about two weeks.

There is still strong media interest in the trial and on some days I have not been able to attend the hearing. The court official, who is in charge of organizing the media access, does not really know what to do about me. I’m the only NGO representative wanting to attend the trial.

Every morning, I have to struggle hard to get on the list of those who are allowed into the court room. Once I got in with the help of Karinna Moskalenko, one of the lawyers of Anna Politkovskaya’s family, who dragged me past the court official and told him that Amnesty International has to be at the hearing.

The journalists from Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper Anna Politkovskaya worked for, get in every day and give a daily account of events in the court room. The following summary is partly based on the reporting from Novaya Gazeta:

The trial so far…

On Monday 17 November, the judge stated he would close the trial immediately if the jury received even the smallest threat. On 18 November, the jury was selected and on 19 November the judge announced that the jury was too afraid to enter the court room with all the media around.

Karinna Moskalenko made a passionate appeal to the judge, asking him to withdraw his decision.

“This is the trial that could be an example of openness and fair trials in our country. We do not have anything to hide. Look at all these journalists.”

She pointed at our silent group, sitting there in bewilderment. “How can the jury fear these respected representatives of the media?”

Murad Musaev, the lawyer for the two Makhmudov brothers, accused of involvement in the murder, also asked the judge to review his decision.

“Look at the journalists here, they came with pen and paper, not with a gun,” he said.

The next day, one of the jury members appeared on Ekho Moskvy, a very popular independent radio station, and said the jury was not opposed to an open trial. He claimed to be embarrassed about the way the jury had been presented to the media and had decided to go public. The other jury members had written to the judge, stating that they were not against an open trial.

So the trial was declared open again. I always get the impression, when the jury members enter the court building, that they are met with great respect from the waiting journalists.

Before the witnesses were called into the court, the children of Anna Politkovskaya revealed how aware their mother had been of being under threat. She had warned her daughter the week before her murder to be careful when leaving and entering the house, as she had noticed some suspicious people outside the apartment building.

Friends and relatives of the Makhmudov brothers gave witness statements saying they had met the two brothers on and around 7 October 2006. They also talked about the brothers’ car, which they had bought shortly before the death of Anna Politkovskaya, and which is believed to have been used in the crime.

Murad Musaev announced that the third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, who stands accused of shooting Anna Politkovskaya and is alleged to be abroad, had expressed a willingness to come back to Russia if he were to get a fair trial.

Colleagues of Anna Politkovskaya were also asked about the work she had been doing and if they had known about threats against her.

The questioning of a colleague of Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, the third person standing trial for involvement in the murder, went on behind closed doors, as information might be provided which is considered secret.

The trial will continue on 9 December.

Posted in Russian Federation | 3 Comments

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