Page last updated at 15:44 GMT, Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Politkovskaya trial doors closed

Anna Politkovskaya (file image)
Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead on her doorstep

The trial of three men charged over the murder of prominent Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya will be held behind closed doors, the judge has ruled.

The judge reversed his earlier decision that it would be open to the public, saying jurors had refused to enter the courtroom in the presence of the media.

Meanwhile, all three defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Ms Politkovskaya, a leading critic of Russia's policies in Chechnya, was shot dead in Moscow on 7 October 2006.

The reporter's family and lawyers criticised the judge's decision.

How can you say the investigation is complete if you have neither the killer nor the person who ordered it in the dock?
Grigory Pasko
Russian journalist

"Of course we do not like the closed trial.... There is nothing wrong with having journalists there," Ms Politkovskya's son Ilya said.

"I am very disappointed. I think this trial should have been open, not only because all trials should be, but because she was a public figure and the public should know the circumstances of her killing," said Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer for Ms Politkovskaya's family.

Lawyers for the defendants had also pressed for the trial to be open.


The trial opened at Moscow's military court on Monday.

The three defendants are former policeman Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov.

(From left to right): Suspects Ibragim Makhmudov, Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and Dzhabrail Makhmudov in court
None of the suspects is accused of carrying out the murder or ordering it

A court spokesman earlier told the BBC he could not specify exactly what charges the men were facing, although none of them was accused of either carrying out the murder or ordering it.

Another man, an officer with the country's security service, also appeared before the military court. Pavel Ryaguzov is charged with abuse of office and extortion.

On Wednesday, all four defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges, defence lawyer Murad Musayev said.

Investigators say Rustam Makhmudov - who is believed to have fired the fatal shot - and the person or persons who ordered Mr Politkovskaya's killing remain at large.

Some of Ms Politkovskaya's colleagues have described the trial as a "farce".

"How can you say the investigation is complete if you have neither the killer nor the person who ordered it in the dock?" Russian journalist Grigory Pasko said.

Investigative journalist

The murder of Ms Politkovskaya, who wrote for the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, shocked the international community but did not have the same impact in Russia.

Ms Politkovskaya had frequently travelled to Chechnya and the North Caucasus, where her dispatches described some of the horror of a war where most of the casualties were civilians.

She was the 13th journalist to be killed in a contract-style killing in Russia during Vladimir Putin's period as president, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Mr Putin - who served the maximum two consecutive terms in office - was succeeded by Dmitry Medvedev in May.

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