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Retrial begins in killing of Russian journalist

The retrial of three suspects in the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya began Wednesday, despite criticism from defense lawyers that the case as it stands is flawed.
Image: Russian trial
From left, lawyer Said Arsamirzayev, defendant Djabrail Makhmudov and lawyer Murat Musayev prepare for the session of the Moscow Military Court on Wedneday as a new trial opens in the slaying of anti-Kremlin journalist Anna Politkovskaya.Natalia Kolesnikova / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

The retrial of three suspects in the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya began Wednesday, despite criticism from defense lawyers and concessions from the prosecution that the case as it stands is flawed.

Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer representing the slain journalist's family, said the retrial was unlikely to be an improvement over the previous one.

"This process could not reveal truth at all, because the trial will involve the same evidentiary material and the same people," Stavitskaya said before the session began.

The defendants — two Chechen brothers and a Moscow policeman — are accused of playing minor roles in the 2006 shooting death of Politkovskaya, whose reporting was harshly critical of the Kremlin.

A Moscow court acquitted them in February after what Politkovskaya's family said was a completely botched investigation. The Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and ordered a different judge and jury to hear the same case.

Dzhabrail Makhmudov is accused of driving the suspected killer to the central Moscow apartment building where Politkovskaya was slain. His brother Ibragim allegedly alerted the two of Politkovskaya's impending arrival home. The suspected killer — a third brother, Rustam Makhmudov — is thought to be in hiding abroad under an alias.

The policeman, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, is suspected of organizing the logistics of the slaying and providing the murder weapon.

Alleged masterminds missing
Delays in the trial seem likely: Stavitskaya and the prosecution filed a motion Wednesday asking that the case be reworked to include Rustam Makhmudov and as-yet-unidentified masterminds, according to Russian news agencies.

Image: Anna Politkovskaya
In this undated photo provided by Novaya Gazeta, journalist Anna Politkovskaya is seen in Moscow. The newspaper's most high-profile loss was Politkovskaya, its reporter who savaged the Kremlin for its conduct of the war on Chechen separatists. Her shooting outside her Moscow apartment in 2006 provoked worldwide condemnation and major embarrassment for the Kremlin. (AP Photo/Nonaya Gazeta) **NO SALES**Nonaya Gazeta

If the judge grants the motion, it would mark a small victory for the family and a larger circle of liberal observers who say the first trial was fundamentally undermined by absence of the more important suspects, and that the case could not be considered solved — as investigators claimed — without their prosecution.

It was not clear if the request was for Rustam Makhmudov to be tried in absentia or whether further efforts would be made to identify those who ordered Politkovskaya's murder.

Dzhabrail Makhmudov's lawyer said the retrial was not an objective process.

"We believe that the final goal of the state prosecution and investigation authorities is to solve the case formally, they just want to place a tick on their list," Murad Musayev said before the hearing.

Russia's Interfax reported that the judge adjourned the trial until Friday to consider the request.

The slaying of Politkovskaya, a 48-year-old mother of two, drew sharp criticism from the West. The subsequent investigation drew allegations that the Kremlin allows its critics to be dispensed with impunity.

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