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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Jury to Be Picked in Klebnikov Retrial

Itar-TassMusa Vakhayev
Jury selection is to begin Thursday in the retrial of two Chechens accused of murdering U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov, a Moscow City Court spokeswoman said Wednesday.

While the selection process will be closed to the public, the trial of Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev will likely be open, court spokeswoman Tatyana Zubaryova said.

Klebnikov, 41, was the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine until he was shot dead on a Moscow street in July 2004.

In May, Dukuzov and Vakhayev were found not guilty of the killing.

Details about that trial were hard to come by because the Moscow City Court closed the five-month proceedings after prosecutors said classified information would be revealed.

That information apparently involved descriptions of the Federal Security Service collecting evidence that was used against the defendants.

The Supreme Court overturned the not guilty verdict in November, forcing the former defendants back into court.

The Klebnikov family and media watchdog groups criticized the court's decision to close the first trial to the public and have called for the retrial to be open.

Still, it remains to be seen whether the public will actually get to the see inside the courtroom.

Ruslan Khazanov, Dukuzov's lawyer, said he expected prosecutors would ask, once again, for the trial to be closed. "They insisted on a closed trial last time and were granted it," Khazanov said. "I don't see why it would be any different this time around."

Khazanov insisted the two suspects were innocent but said he was "very scared" the retrial would not be "fair and objective."

"We are placing our hopes with the Russian people," he said. "We hope they won't give in."

Dukuzov and Vakhayev are charged with killing Klebnikov as he was leaving his office. Prosecutors said the suspects had acted on behalf of Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, a Chechen separatist who appeared in Klebnikov's 2003 book "Conversation With a Barbarian."

The suspects were arrested in Belarus in November 2004 and extradited to Russia in February 2005. Eight jurors on the 12-member panel voted for acquittal. A simply majority is needed for a guilty verdict.

The Klebnikov family declined to comment on the retrial, a spokesman for the family said Wednesday.

In a statement released in November, the family called the Supreme Court move to override the acquittal "a hopeful sign for justice and the rule of law in Russia."

Turning to the matter of future trials, the family said an open proceeding was imperative. "Only in this way can the numerous failures that characterized the first trial be avoided," it said.

Kazbek Dukuzov
Recent history does not bode well for the Klebnikov case.

No one has ever been convicted in the high-profile slayings of Russian journalists Dmitry Kholodov, Vladislav Listyev and Larisa Yudina, who were all killed in the 1990s. And no one has been convicted in connection with the October 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskaya.

There has been one minor conviction tangentially related to Klebnikov's killing.

Moscow notary Fail Sadretdinov was sentenced to nine years in prison last month by the Preobrazhensky District Court for illegally registering an apartment. In a separate case, Sadretdinov had been tried -- and acquitted -- for purportedly ordering Dukuzov and Vakhayev to kill a Moscow businessman.

Sadretdinov's lawyer, Ruslan Koblev, said his client had been framed and the harsh sentence could prompt Dukuzov and Vakhayev to flee the country to avoid the retrial.

Khazanov said both Dukuzov and Vakhayev were in Moscow as of earlier this week and that there were no indications they had left the country.

Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, said it was unlikely that prosecutors had unearthed any new evidence. "This appears to be an attempt by prosecutors to save some face," Panfilov said.

The Prosecutor General's Office, which oversaw the investigation, declined to comment on the retrial.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the embassy would be closely monitoring the trial.