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RIA Novosti

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Defense lawyers to demand open court in Politkovskaya murder trial

18:59 20/11/2008
MOSCOW, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - Defense lawyers in the trial of three men suspected of involvement in the 2006 murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya will demand an open court, a defense attorney said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the presiding judge announced that the trial would be held in an open court. However, when proceedings began on Wednesday, it was quickly declared that due to the jury refusing to appear in the courtroom in the presence of journalists, the trial would take place behind closed doors.

"We will demand an open court, given that one of the jury members has said the jury did not ask for a closed trial," Murad Musayev said. "I said at the very beginning that the jury has nothing to do with this decision, which was taken by the court of its own accord."

Jury member Yevgeny Kolesov said on the Ekho Moskvy radio station on Thursday that the jury had not requested a closed trial.

"I would not say it was our initiative," he said, adding that before the trial started a court secretary had asked the jury to sign a document requesting that media representatives be barred from the courtroom, but "no one signed."

He said that when the jury learned that the decision to hold the trial in a closed court had been taken, they wrote to the judge. "We received no answer," the jury member said, adding that he did not want to be in the jury any longer.

Musayev said the jury member's statement could lead to the jury being dismissed.

Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer representing Politkovskaya's relatives, said she would continue to demand an open trial at the court's next meeting.

The Moscow Military District Court announced earlier on Thursday a break in the trial until December 1. Press Secretary Alexander Minchanovsky told RIA Novosti that the delay was due to defense attorneys being engaged in another trial.

Politkovskaya, who gained international recognition for her criticism of the Kremlin and reports of military atrocities against civilians in the troubled Caucasus republic of Chechnya, was gunned down in an elevator in her Moscow apartment building in October 2006, in what police described as a contract killing.

Three men, a former police officer and two brothers from Chechnya, have been charged with involvement in the murder. Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, and Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov have been in custody since last August. Investigators have provided no details as to their alleged roles in the crime.

The man suspected of pulling the trigger, Rustam Makhmudov - the eldest of the three Makhmudov brothers - remains at large. A separate case has been launched against him.

A former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, Colonel Pavel Ryaguzov, has also been charged with abuse of office after allegedly telling the killers where Politkovskaya lived.

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RIA NovostiDefense lawyers to demand open court in Politkovskaya murder trial

18:59 20/11/2008 Defense lawyers in the trial of three men suspected of involvement in the 2006 murder of Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya will demand an open court, a defense attorney said on Thursday. >>

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