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2 Russians convicted of killing lawyer, reporter

/ Source: The Associated Press

Two Russian nationalists were convicted Thursday of killing a prominent human rights lawyer and a reporter, who were gunned down in a brazen daytime attack in central Moscow more than two years ago.

After deliberating late into the night, a jury at the Moscow City Court convicted 31-year-old Nikita Tikhonov and his 26-year-old girlfriend Yevgenia Khasis in the January 2009 killing.

Investigators said Tikhonov was the masked gunman, while Khasis followed the two victims, Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova, as they left a news conference and walked toward a subway station near the Kremlin.

The 34-year-old Markelov's work had angered nationalists, who had threatened him and cheered his killing in Internet comments after his death. He also had made enemies through his work fighting for victims of rights abuses in Chechnya.

Around the time of his death, Markelov was representing the family of a Chechen teenager killed in 2000 by a Russian officer, Col. Yuri Budanov, who had won early release from prison. Markelov was working to put Budanov back behind bars. The officer had become a hero to nationalists during his trial.

Baburova, 25, wrote for the independent Novaya Gazeta. Markelov had worked with Novaya Gazeta's star journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who wrote extensively about abuses in Chechnya. She was gunned down in Moscow in 2006 in a similar killing.

Russia has seen a string of contract-style killings of human rights workers and journalists in recent years. Few of the killings are ever solved.

Tikhonov and Khasis, who were locked in a glass case in the courtroom throughout the trial, remained calm when the verdict was read.