By Friederike Behr, Russian Federation researcher for Amnesty International
This week it is four years since the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who since 1999 had written continuously about human rights abuses in Chechnya for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.
On Saturday, 7 October 2006 Anna Politkovskaya was shot entering the elevator of the apartment building in the centre of Moscow where she lived. The woman who had faced many dangerous situations and who had been threatened repeatedly was shot at pointblank range after returning from a trip to a supermarket.
The person suspected of shooting her is still at large. Lawyers of the family of Anna Politkovskaya fear that there is a lack of will on the part of the authorities to vigorously investigate the case.
A trial into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya started in October 2008 at the military district court in Moscow, with three men facing charges of involvement in her murder.
The trial started with a scandal; the judge announced that the jury members had asked for the trial to be conducted behind closed doors. However, one of the jury members said on the independent radio station Ekho Moskvy that the jury members were not afraid and had nothing against an open trial.
The hearings started amidst great media interest. Having sat through several of them, I wondered if the judge who wanted the trial to take place behind closed doors had been concerned about public scrutiny as the trial raised more questions than it gave answers.
A lot of video footage of Anna Politkovskaya’s last days surfaced, countless lists of telephone calls were presented, either those she herself made or those, which had been made by the suspects in the killing. But the jury was unable to find the three suspects guilty beyond doubt.
On 19 February 2009 the suspects were acquitted. In September 2009, the Russian Supreme Court ordered a new investigation into the murder. A year later, the investigation has not yet brought new results.
Since then, more journalists and human rights defenders have been killed. Others have faced threats.
On 7 October there will be a memorial in Moscow for Anna Politkovskaya, organized by her colleagues from Novaya Gazeta and from human rights organizations.
Amnesty International continues to seek justice for her murder. We also want the authorities to allow independent journalists and human rights defenders to continue their lawful work without fear.