Russia judge orders journalist murder trial closed again to hear classified evidence

[JURIST] Moscow Military District Court judge Yevgeny Zubov on Thursday ordered that the trial of three men accused of the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] be closed to the public to hear classified evidence, limiting an earlier decision to keep the proceedings open [JURIST report] to the public. In November, Zubov ordered the trial to be open [JURIST report], in accordance with the wishes of Politkovskaya's family [AFP report]. Two days later, the judge ordered the trial closed [JURIST report] to the public, citing jury security concerns. A juror later told a Moscow radio station that he and other jurors did not fear for their safety [Moscow Times report], and Russia's Supreme Court announced that it would review Zubov's decision [JURIST report] to close the trial. Zubov then reopened the trial last week after 19 of 20 jurors signed a statement [NYT report] confirming that they had not complained to the judge. The Russian Prosecutor General's Office [official website, in Russian] subsequently requested that Zubov be replaced [BBC report] for allegedly violating procedural rules. In blocking the public, including the news media, from entering his courtroom on Thursday, Zubov cited security concerns tied to the disclosure of classified evidence.

Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, all from Chechnya, were arrested [JURIST report] in connection with the killing in August 2007. The primary suspect, Rustam Makhmudov, also from Chechnya, has yet to be captured, but Russian authorities have said he is hiding in Western Europe. Defense lawyers said last week that court documents would show that Politkovskaya's murder was ordered by an unnamed Russian politician [RIA Novosti report]. Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta [official website] widely known for her stories about human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya, was murdered [JURIST report] after returning to her Moscow apartment building in October 2006.



 

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