Probe of Judge's Decision Ordered

The Supreme Court opened an internal probe into the decisions of the judge who had closed to the public the trial of the alleged murderers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said Friday.

"The leadership of the Supreme Court reacted to the media reports about the incident," Odintsov said. "After all circumstances are studied, the court might decide what to do with the judge."

In the first minutes of the trial on Wednesday, the judge of the Moscow Military District Court, Yevgeny Zubov, decided to close the process to the public. He told journalists and the participants of the process that the jury members refused to enter the courtroom, fearing that their names and photos would be leaked to the press.

Later that day, one of the jurors, Yevgeny Kolesov, called Ekho Moskvy radio and said none of the jury members wanted to have the trial closed or were afraid of the journalists.

Nineteen of 20 jurors signed a letter to Zubov on Thursday calling him to allow media at the process, which was adjourned until Dec. 1. Kolesov said late Wednesday that he had sent Zubov a request to release him from his responsibilities as a juror in protest of the judge's decision to close the trial.

Spokesman for the Moscow Military District Court, Alexander Minchanovsky, said Friday that none of the jurors' letters was considered in the process Thursday and likely would not be until the trial resumes Dec. 1.

Odintsov of the Supreme Court refused to comment Friday on what punishment Zubov might face if it is found that he abused his powers by barring the public from the courtroom.

The president of the Moscow Bar Association, Genri Reznik, told Interfax Friday that "if the judge deliberately misinterpreted the opinion of the jury, by doing this he cast doubts about his own impartiality.

"And this makes the grade for disciplinary punishment," Reznik said.

At the preliminary hearing last Monday, Zubov said the trial would be open.

Politkovskaya's family, her colleagues at the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, editors of prominent newspapers and media freedom groups called for an open trial.

Defense lawyers for the three men accused of involvement in Politkovskaya's murder – Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov and Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov – also called for an open trial.

The fourth defendant, Federal Security Service officer Pavel Ryaguzov, is being tried with the others in a case unrelated to the Politkovskaya murder.