Politkovskaya Judge Staying on Case

APA guard sits watching as the public and press stand waiting at the Moscow Military District Court on Wednesday.
The judge presiding over the trial of three men charged in the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya refused to recuse himself from the case on Wednesday after prosecutors accused him of bias for reversing his decision to close the proceedings to the public.

Judge Yevgeny Zubov of the Moscow Military District Court rejected prosecutors' appeal to have him removed from the trial in preliminary proceedings held behind closed doors Wednesday, court spokesman Alexander Minchanovsky told reporters.

Zubov last week ruled to close the trial to the press and public, reversing his ruling two days earlier to open the proceedings. On Tuesday, Zubov again said the press would be allowed in the courtroom for the proceedings, though he gave no explanation for the decision.

Lawyers for the defendants and Politkovskaya's family have repeatedly called for an open trial, while prosecutors have insisted that it be closed to the public.

Charged in Politkovskaya's murder are two ethnic Chechens, brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov.

A third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, is suspected of actually pulling the trigger in the killing but has not been apprehended. An international warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Politkovskaya, who upset the Kremlin with her reporting of human rights abuses in Chechnya, was shot dead in her apartment building in October 2006, rekindling fears about the safety of journalists working in the country.

Reporters were allowed into the courtroom Wednesday following Zubov's decision to continue presiding over the case, though television cameras and photographers were barred from the hearing.

Prosecutors on Wednesday presented evidence from the crime scene, including bullets and photographs, as the defendants listened attentively in their glass courtroom cage.

The trial is to resume Thursday, when witnesses are to give testimony. Zubov said Wednesday that the trial would last 45 days.