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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Retrial in Klebnikov Case Delayed

Itar-TassSadretdinov appearing Thursday in court. The Moscow notary is serving a nine-year sentence for illegal registration.
Two Chechens accused of murdering U.S. journalist Paul Klebnikov failed to appear in Moscow City Court on Thursday, delaying jury selection in the high-profile case.

Kazbek Dukuzov and Musa Vakhayev are being tried for a second time for the July 2004 shooting of Klebnikov, 41, the former editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.

They were acquitted in May, but the Supreme Court reversed that ruling in November, sending both men back to court.

But they were nowhere to be found Thursday. "We have no written explanation of why they did not show up," court spokeswoman Tatyana Zubaryova said.

The proceeding was closed to the public.

Vakhayev's lawyer, Vladimir Gorulkov, said in court that his client had "valid reasons" for his absence, Zubaryova said. No one showed up to represent Dukuzov, Zubaryova said. Ruslan Koblev, the lawyer for Moscow notary Fail Sadretdinov, said Dukuzov had received his court summons but was in Chechnya; he said he did not know whether Dukuzov would return to Moscow for the trial.

Koblev said Vakhayev was in Moscow but stayed home Thursday because he was ill.

Sadretdinov is suspected of ordering Vakhayev and Dukuzov to kill a Moscow businessman in an unrelated killing.

Authorities were unable to convict Sadretdinov, but they did manage to get him for illegally registering an apartment. Last month, he was sentenced by the Preobrazhensky District Court to nine years in prison. Authorities are now retrying Sadretdinov for ordering the murder of the Moscow businessman.

The same jury that is being selected to hear the retrial in the Klebnikov killing is also slated to hear Sadretdinov's case.

The Klebnikov retrial has been postponed until March 14, Zubaryova said.

Ruslan Khazanov, who served as Dukuzov's attorney in the first trial, said he was no longer representing Dukuzov. He added that did not know why the suspects did not show up to court. "But clearly they know they won't get a fair trial," Khazanov said.

Koblev, Sadretdinov's lawyer, said the harsh sentence handed down to his client for the illegal registration might prompt Dukuzov and Vakhayev to flee the country to avoid the retrial in the Klebnikov case.

Alexander Vasilyev, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office, said Thursday that he could not comment on Vakhayev's and Dukuzov's wherabouts, but he did indicate that the trial was unlikely to be open to the public.

The Klebnikov family and media watchdog groups have criticized the decision to close the first trial and have called for opening the second trial.

"You and I both know that the case is full of secret documents," Vasilyev said.

But Koblev said only four pages -- out of 38 volumes of case materials -- contained classified information.

That classified information was said to detail secret methods used by the Federal Security Service to collect evidence against the defendants.

"The first trial was riddled with procedural violations that were hidden from the public with closed-door proceedings and a gag order on all participants," Joel Simon, executive director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement Wednesday.

"We call on Russian court officials to open the hearing to the public to ensure a fair trial."

Prosecutors contend Vakhayev and Dukuzov had been ordered to kill Klebnikov by Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, a Chechen separatist who appeared in Klebnikov's 2003 book "Conversation With a Barbarian."

The Klebnikov family communicated through a spokesman Thursday that it had nothing to say. In a statement released in November, after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial, the family said it would "suspend for the time being our own direct participation in the case due to the enormous emotional toll on us."

But family members said they "reserve the right to become involved again at any time, as the trial unfolds."

Larisa Maslennikova, the lawyer representing the Klebnikov family, said on Ekho Moskvy radio Thursday that it was "above all" the government's job to bring the slain journalist's killers to justice.

Recent history suggests that may be asking a lot.

While the killings of Russian journalists Dmitry Kholodov, Vladislav Listyev and Larisa Yudina in the 1990s all captured headlines, none of these cases has actually seen a single conviction.

Nor has anyone been convicted in the October 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskaya.