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New Politkovskaya probe ordered

3 September 09 10:51 GMT

Russia's Supreme Court has ordered a new effort to catch those who planned and carried out the killing of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

Three men were acquitted of involvement in the murder in February, but have since been sent for retrial.

But lawyers say that case will now be halted and merged with the hunt for the killer and the mastermind.

Ms Politkovskaya won international renown for her dogged investigation of Russian abuses in Chechnya.

But her reports, highly critical of the then-President Vladimir Putin and the Chechen leadership, angered many in authority.

She was shot dead in Moscow in 2006.

Decision overturned

A lawyer for the Politkovskaya family said they were "entirely satisfied" by the decision.

The family had launched an appeal for the court case to be sent back to prosecutors, and combined with the hunt for senior figures in the plot, to make one investigation.

The decision to reject that appeal, taken by a military court in Moscow last month, has now been overturned by the Supreme Court.

The Politkovskaya family argued a retrial was pointless without a fresh investigation as it would involve the same evidence and suspects, and so would not get to the bottom of who was behind the killing.

The three original suspects are two Chechen brothers alleged to have been drivers at the scene and a former Moscow policeman accused of giving logistical support.

A third Makhmudov brother - Rustam - is accused by prosecutors of being the killer but has never been caught.

Campaigners say Russia is one of the most dangerous places for opposition-minded journalists and activists to operate, with many having been beaten or killed in recent years.

One of the most recent cases was the fatal shooting in July of the human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, who investigated government abuses in Chechnya and had worked closely with Ms Politkovskaya.

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