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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawyers Criticize Flaws in New Case

The retrial of four men charged with involvement in the murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya began on Wednesday morning only to be quickly adjourned so that lawyers could file a flurry of complaints to prosecutors.

The hearing lasted about two hours at the Moscow District Military Court before being adjourned until Friday. Reporters were allowed into the courtroom, although guards didn’t allow several journalists inside, saying the room was full.

In February, a jury unanimously acquitted Chechen brothers Ibragim and Dzhabrail Makhmudov and former Moscow police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov of involvement in the murder of Politkovskaya in the entrance to her apartment building on Oct. 7, 2006.

A fourth man, former Federal Security Service officer Pavel Ryaguzov, was acquitted in a case tried simultaneously.

The Supreme Court overturned the court’s decision in June and ordered a retrial after complaints from prosecutors that the judge committed numerous violations.

The murder of Politkovskaya, who was harshly critical of Kremlin policies in Chechnya, focused attention on the country’s human rights record and forced then-President Vladimir Putin — on whose birthday she died — to answer awkward questions from Western reporters and politicians.

Investigators have failed to identify the people who ordered and financed the killing. A third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, is being sought by police on suspicion of carrying out the murder, but he was not a defendant in the first trial.

The initial proceedings were criticized as a sham by Politkovskaya’s relatives, who nonetheless praised the jury’s decision.

On Wednesday, Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, called for the charges to be changed or for Rustam Makhmudov’s case to be incorporated into the case being heard.

In court, a representative of the Prosecutor General’s Office supported the request to combine the cases, raising the prospect that the case retrial could be delayed while prosecutors rework their case. A defense lawyer said he also supported the request.

“The crime still hasn’t been solved. The investigation didn’t come to any final conclusions as it should have done, and that is what provoked all the requests that were made today,” Karina Moskalenko, another lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, said after the hearing.

“Our aim is to end the impunity, to have an investigation carried out and the crime solved,” Moskalenko said, standing beside Politkovskaya’s son and daughter, Ilya and Vera.

During the hearing, Stavitskaya also criticized the investigation, saying a man captured on security cameras at the scene could have been a decoy and that the investigators did not adequately investigate the possible involvement of the Makhmudovs’ uncle, Lom Ali Gaitukayev, and a man and woman seen following Politkovskaya, Interfax reported.

Khadzhikurbanov, the former police officer, requested that the case be sent back to prosecutors and combined with another, in which he is charged with extorting a large sum of money from a key witness in the Politkovskaya trial, Interfax reported.

Three of the defendants are free on the condition that they not leave Moscow, but Khadzhikurbanov was taken back into custody because of the new charges in April.

After the hearing, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov came out with their lawyers, Murad Musayev and Saidakhmed Arsamerzayev.

The brothers, dressed casually in short-sleeved shirts and jeans, exchanged remarks in Chechen. Dzhabrail Makhmudov told reporters, “I’m not at all worried.”

“Everything is as expected,” Musayev said outside the courtroom.

Wearing a gray pinstripe suit and blue crocodile-skin shoes, Musayev exuded confidence. “If the court is objective, our clients will be acquitted,” he said. He questioned the prosecutors’ motives in agreeing to send the case back for further investigation, however.

“The victim’s representatives want the case to be really investigated, but for the prosecutors it’s just a possibility to save face, so as to avoid a second acquittal,” Musayev said.