By Olga Nedbayeva (AFP) – Aug 7, 2009
MOSCOW — A Russian court Friday rejected an appeal for a new investigation into the murder of anti-Kremlin journalist Anna Politkovskaya, in a blow for her family who have bitterly criticised the probe.
The decision means that a new trial of three suspects accused in connection the 2006 murder will go ahead amid mounting pressure on Russia over its failure to achieve any results in the investigation.
"I am shocked. It's impossible to explain. We do not want to take part in this circus any longer," Politkovskaya's daughter Vera told reporters after the ruling.
Karinna Moskalenko, lawyer for the Politkovskaya family, added: "We cannot count on this trial to bring us closer to the truth. We will follow the trial but we will not take part in it actively."
Politkovskaya, who was sharply critical of Russia's strongman Vladimir Putin and his policies in Chechnya, was gunned down in the stairwell of her central Moscow apartment building on October 7, 2006 in an apparent contract killing.
The three suspects are all accused of being accessories to the murder and the authorities have still failed to find the triggerman, let alone identify the mastermind of the killing.
The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders slammed Friday's ruling in the case.
"There could not have been a worse decision," the Paris-based organisation said in a statement. "Impunity now reigns supreme in Russia."
The retrial at a Moscow military court follows the supreme court's decision in June to overturn acquittal verdicts handed last February to all the suspects in the first trial.
The judge, Nikolai Tkachuk, ordered a jury for the retrial be selected at the next hearings on September 7 after ruling that the case could not be sent back to prosecutors to further investigation.
"The request by the plaintiff cannot be satisfied," he said.
"For us the decision was very unexpected. We thought we would get approval on our appeal for the case to be sent back to prosecutors," Politkovskaya's son, Ilya, said outside the courtroom.
The family had wanted the case against the three suspects to be combined with the search for the masterminds of the killing.
Defence lawyer Murad Musayev said he was confident "that in front of an objective jury our defendants will again be acquitted."
For human rights groups, the drawn-out trial has epitomized the failure by Russian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for a spate of recent crimes against journalists.
They believe this failure promotes a climate of impunity and increases the danger of their work.
Politkovskaya had written dozens of articles for her Novaya Gazeta newspaper and a book called "Putin's Russia" accusing the Russian strongman of using the Chechen conflict to strangle democracy in the country.
"This decision (of the judge) has been taken so that the case is never solved. It's an attempt to destroy history so that the masterminds of the killing are never identified," said Novaya Gazeta deputy chief editor Sergei Sokolov.
"The people who know the names of the masterminds are high-ranking individuals," he added.
That her murder remains unsolved was again brought into sharp focus last month with the killing of Politkovskaya's friend, prominent rights activist Natalya Estemirova.
Estemirova, worked closely with Politkovskaya to investigate reports detailing horrific abuses during the Kremlin's war in Chechnya.
Of the suspects, Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov are accused of acting as drivers at the murder scene for the killer, who prosecutors say was a third brother, Rustam, who is still at large.
Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police investigator, is charged with providing logistical assistance for the killing.
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