Politkovskaya Trial Will Be Open

APRyaguzov, Khadzhikurbanov, Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov on Monday.
The Moscow Military District Court on Monday ruled that the trial of three men charged in the murder of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya would be open to the public.

Numerous high-profile criminal trials have been closed off from public scrutiny in recent years, and lawyers for the defendants and Politkovskaya's family both said they were pleased with the ruling at Monday's preliminary hearing.

But Judge Yevgeny Zubov said he would close the trial should any juror complain of outside pressure, said Murad Musayev, a defense lawyer for two of the suspects, Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov.

"I am really pleased by the judge's decision," Musayev said. "But I am very much afraid that just as the trial begins, some of the jury members will complain, and the judge will close the trial to the media."

The Makhmudov brothers and a former officer with the Moscow police's anti-organized crime department, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, are accused of participating in the shooting death of the Novaya Gazeta reporter in October 2006.

All three defendants denied their guilt in court Monday, news agencies reported.

Another Makhmudov brother, Rustam, who has not been apprehended, is suspected of shooting Politkovskaya dead in the elevator of her apartment building in central Moscow on Oct. 7, 2006. An international warrant is out for the arrest of Rustam Makhmudov.

Investigators have failed to establish who was the mastermind behind the murder, although officials have suggested that it was organized by an enemy of the Kremlin living outside of Russia.

Both Musayev and Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for Politkovskaya's son and daughter, said media attention to the case had prompted the judge to open the trial.

Both lawyers said Zubov bluntly stated at preliminary hearings last month that the trial would be closed.

Jury selection, which will take place behind closed doors, is scheduled for Tuesday, and the trial could begin as early as Wednesday, Stavitskaya said.

A fourth suspect, Federal Security Service officer Pavel Ryaguzov, is being tried on corruption charges together with Khadzhikurbanov, though he has not been implicated in Politkovskaya's killing.

Another lawyer for Politkovskaya's family, Karina Moskalenko, criticized the investigation Monday as incomplete, saying the Investigative Committee had failed to establish not only who ordered the murder but also who organized it.

Moskalenko demanded Monday that Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov appear in court for questioning because his name figures prominently in case materials, Stavitskaya said.

In her writings, Politkovskaya harshly criticized Kadyrov and Kremlin policies in Chechnya.

Her family on Monday filed a lawsuit in conjunction with the trial seeking 10 million rubles ($370,000) in compensation from the defendants, Interfax reported.