Tuesday, November 25, 2008

High Jinks at Politkovskaya Trial

From The New York Times: Bid to Remove Politkovskaya Judge By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ Published: November 25, 2008 MOSCOW— Russian prosecutors requested a new judge Tuesday in an increasingly confused trial of three suspects accused in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist, after the judge flip-flopped twice on whether to allow press coverage. The judge, Yevgeny Zubov, is accused of “violating procedural rules,” said Marina Gridneva, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor general’s office. She would not elaborate on the alleged violations, though she said Judge Zubov would be given the chance to decide whether to recuse himself on Wednesday. In a hearing on Tuesday, the judge once again decided to open the trial to the media, a second reversal on the issue, after 19 of the 20 jurors signed a statement saying they had made no official complaints about the presence of journalists in the courtroom, in opposition to the judge’s previous statements. Last week, Judge Zubov cited jurors’ fears about media coverage of the trial to bar journalists from the proceedings, overturning an earlier decision. The request to remove Judge Zubov adds to the confusions that have come to typify this closely watched trial, as well as the two-year investigation that preceded it. Supporters of Ms. Politkovskaya, a prominent investigative journalist and pugnacious Kremlin critic, accuse officials of botching the investigation into her killing, and have suggested tacit government complacency in her death. The three defendants are all accomplices. The police say they have yet to capture the person who shot Ms. Politkovskaya to death two years ago in a hallway of her apartment building, and investigators also say they have little information on who ordered the killing. In another twist on Tuesday, however, a defense lawyer in the case caused a stir in the Russian media when he announced that court documents indicated that an unidentified politician inside Russia had ordered the killing, contradicting authorities’ claims that a Kremlin enemy abroad was responsible. “During the investigation, the prosecutor general said that this was some great and horrible figure from abroad, but in the indictment we see that this is someone not so great and horrible, but a political figure inside the country,” Murad Musayev, the lawyer, said, according to Russian media. In a later interview, Mr. Musayev downplayed his statement, saying his remarks were meant to highlight the lack of evidence in the prosecution’s case. He denied that court documents identified any specific individual who ordered the killing. “This was the speculation of the investigator, who, for some reason, wrote this in the indictment,” he said by telephone. “About 98 percent of this case consists of guessing by the investigators.”
So, it was just a guess that a high ranking political figure in Russia had anything to do with Politkovskaya's murder. Yeah, right.

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