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MOSCOW, January 27, 21:30 /ITAR-TASS/. The Moscow City Court will start examining proof in the case of Novaya Gazeta observer Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on January 29.
The court began hearings on the case on Monday, January 27. Prosecutors made accusatory statements, after which the defendants and their lawyers pleaded not guilty.
Judge Pavel Melekhin asked the sides to decide on the order in which the evidence would be examined. The sides agreed that the evidence presented by the prosecution would be examined first and then the defendants would be allowed to speak.
The court will continue discussing the order of examining the evidence at a technical meeting in the absence of the jury on January 29.
Last week, Melekhin upheld new counsel for defence Vladimir Stepanov’s request for a delay to give him more time to read the case files. This was the second postponement after the selection of the jury. Two weeks ago, hearings were postponed to allow Stepanov to get on the inside. Prior to that the court had selected the main 12-member jury and a backup one. However, their composition raised questions about the jury being “well-balanced.”
The court dismissed the previous jury in November 2011 after three jurors had not shown up for the meeting of the jury, having submitted written statements on their withdrawal from the process, which left 11 jurors.In cases like this, the law requires the court to dismiss the jury in this case and select a new one.
Anna Stavitskaya, who represents the interests of Politkovskaya’s family, believes that the jury was dismissed for “natural and domestic reasons.” “I see no ill intent here. The trial has been going on for a long time, the jurors were spending half a day in the conference room while the defence lawyers were filing their procedural appeals. The jurors simply got tired of waiting,” she said.
The counsel for defence thinks that the dismissal of the jury might have been provoked in order to prevent a no-guilty verdict. “The jury has been dismissed and this is not the first time the Moscow City Court dismisses the jury for fear of acquittal,” lawyer Murad Musayev said.
The defendants in this case are Lom-Ali Gaitukayev and his nephews - brothers Rustam, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov - and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov. All of them have been charged with murder and illegal trafficking in arms. Rustam Makhmudov has also been charged with abduction of a person in Moscow in 1996 and extortion.
Two of the five defendants - Rustam and Dzhabrail Makhmudov - are at large, the others are under arrest.
Investigators have reconstructed events that preceded Politkovskaya’s assassination. They claim that “the defendants watched Politkovskaya for several days, one of them entered and exited the entranceway [in her house] and at one point, when the journalist was walking her dog, they met face to face. The man was holding the door for her to enter the building but then left. There is no doubt that it was this person who got out of the VAZ-2104 car on the day and at the time of the assassination and then entered the entranceway of Politkovskaya’s house. The investigators came to this conclusion watching video recordings from the CCTV cameras.”
“As for the automobile the perpetrator got into, in fact there were several such cars in the area and all of them were recorded by video cameras. However the results of two examinations, which were based on the specific features of the vehicle, clearly indicate that it was the Makhmudov brothers’ car that had repeatedly appeared near Politkovskaya’s house and that was used by the defendants for escape on the day of the murder,” Investigation Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said earlier.
“Regarding the murder tool, which they left behind at the scene of the crime, it was also thoroughly studied during several examinations. Fibers found on the pistol are identical to those on the seat covers in the Makhmudov brothers’ car, which, along with other evidence, indicates that the murder tool had been in contact with the seat cover of this particular car. In addition, the investigation gathered other evidence proving the defendants’ role in Politkovskaya’s assassination,” he said.
Politkovskaya was killed in the elevator at her house on October 7, 2006. Earlier, the court sentenced Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov to 11 years in prison in this case.
According to the prosecution, having received a contract to kill Politkovskaya from a person so far unidentified by the investigators, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev of Chechnya created a criminal group of six people, drawing in Pavlyuchenkov who determined Politkovskaya’s whereabouts and routes in July-September 2006 and reported this to other members of the criminal group. He also acquired arms and ammunition for them, which later were used to kill the journalist.
When collecting information about Politkovskaya, Pavlyuchenkov used his subordinates with professional undercover surveillance skills, keeping them unaware of his criminal intentions.
On October 7, 2006, the killer, carrying the gun given to him by Pavlyuchenkov, entered the hallway of section 2 at Lesnaya Street 8/12 in Moscow and fired the pistol at Politkovskaya five times when she entered the elevator at about 16:00 Moscow time.