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Criminal investigation into suspected murder of journalist Yuri Shchekochikhin closed

(GDF/IFEX) - The criminal investigation into the suspected murder of Yuri Shchekochikhin, a journalist and member of the State Duma, has been closed, the RosBalt news agency has reported with reference to "Novaya Gazeta" editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, who said that "Yuri's two sons have been officially notified of the closure of the case, with no official notice received by 'Novaya Gazeta' so far from the Investigations Committee under the RF Prosecutor General's Office."

Yuri Shchekochikhin died on 3 July 2003 of a rare disease, experts said. The journalist's family and colleagues, however, suspected he may have been poisoned, considering the numerous anonymous threats he had received in connection with his independent investigations of different VIP scandals.

In 2003-2008, Yuri's colleagues and friends repeatedly asked to have criminal proceedings opened to investigate the true circumstances of his death. But the Kuntsevsky Inter-District Prosecutor's Office in Moscow twice refused to do so, finding nothing criminal about the journalist's death.

The Investigations Committee (IC) also failed to agree to initiate criminal proceedings after "Novaya Gazeta" officially urged it to do so. Finally, in April 2008, IC chief Alexander Bastrykin ordered the opening of an investigation into Shchekochikhin's suspected murder under Article 105.1 of the Criminal Code.

However, the case was closed on 9 April, as no advances had been made in the investigation of the crime. "This decision by the Investigations Committee came as no surprise to us, since too much time has passed since Yuri's death. We continue insisting he was poisoned, but too much time has been lost for experts to find the traces of the substance which must have killed him," "Novaya Gazeta" editor Sergey Sokolov told the Ekho Moskvy radio station. "For all I know," he added, "the Investigations Committee thoroughly checked all the facts and had every necessary expert study made, with the result of nothing actually found in the long run for the determination of poisoning to be unmistakably confirmed. The criminal proceedings were initiated too late."

"Impunity is becoming a norm of life in Russia," Reporters Without Borders said when commenting on the closure of the Shchekochikhin case.

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