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Politkovskaya murder hunt reopens

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Anna Politkovskya was a vocal critic of the Russian authorities

A Russian judge has ordered a new investigation into the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, following the acquittal of three men.

On Thursday, a military court in Moscow acquitted the men, who were accused of aiding the murder in October 2006.

Ms Politkovskaya, famous for exposing human rights abuses by the Russian army and its allies in Chechnya, was shot in her apartment building in Moscow.

Judge Yevgeniy Zubov has now sent the case back to Russian state prosecutors.

Correspondents say the move is procedural - given that the gunman and those behind the murder have still not been apprehended.

Former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov were acquitted by the military court on Thursday. A third brother, Rustam, is accused of the actual murder.

FROM THE BBC WORLD SERVICE

The brutal killing of the reporter, who worked for the small-circulation Novaya Gazeta newspaper, highlighted the risks run by journalists in Russia.

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.

A former FSB (Federal Security Service) agent, Pavel Ryaguzov, was also acquitted by the jury of an extortion charge relating to the case.

A spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which monitors media freedom in Europe, said after the verdict that Russia's failure to solve the murder of Ms Politkovskaya amounted to a "human rights crisis".

Most Moscow newspapers are savaging the Russian police, investigators and prosecutors for their failure to convict anybody for the murder, the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports.

The opposition daily Kommersant called the trial a complete failure.

Even pro-Kremlin newspapers accused Russia's law enforcement agencies of utter impotence in investigating the murder, our correspondent reports.

In Paris, the press watchdog Reporters without Borders said the trial had been marked by incoherence.

The US state department joined the chorus of calls for a new investigation into the murder.

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