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Supreme Court orders further investigation into Politkovskaya murder

IPI welcomes decision, hopes all those responsible will be brought to justice

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 3 September 2009 - Russia's Supreme Court on Thursday granted a request by family members of murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya to send the case back for further investigation, rather than immediately retry three individuals acquitted of the killing earlier this year.

Politkovskaya, a special correspondent at Russia's fiercely independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper, was gunned down in her apartment block in October 2006. Colleagues said she had been working on a story regarding the use of torture in Chechnya at the time of her death, and that she had been receiving threats.

On 19 February 2009, following a high-profile investigation and court case, a Moscow jury found police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov not guilty of helping to plan and execute the assassination of Kremlin-critic Politkovskaya.

The court also found a fourth man, former Russian spy Pavel Ryaguzov, not guilty in a separate but related case in which he was accused of both abusing his position and extortion. Ryaguzov allegedly gave Politkovskaya's murderers her home address.

Russia's Supreme Court overturned the acquittals in June of this year, citing irregularities in the original proceedings.

Despite calls to reopen the case from the prosecutors and from members of Politkovskaya's family, a Moscow military court decided on 7 August that Khadzhikurbanov, the Makhmudov brothers and Ryaguzov should all be retried on the original evidence.

At the time, IPI expressed concern at the Russian authorities' apparent lack of resolve to thoroughly investigate the murder and called for a re-investigation.

"We are pleased to see that the Russian courts have decided to re-investigate the case," said IPI Director David Dadge. "A climate of impunity in Russia allows those who want to silence criticism to do so in the most vicious manner possible – through murder. The decision to re-investigate this case is a step towards addressing the still very real concerns about Russia's commitment to press freedom and hopefully it will send a signal to other would-be murderers of journalists that the Russian state is no longer prepared to allow these murders to go unpunished."

IPI posthumously awarded Politkovskaya its 'World Press Freedom Hero Award' in 2006, while Novaya Gazeta - which has lost four journalists since the year 2000 – received IPI's 'Free Media Pioneer Award' at the organization's 2009 Annual IPI World Congress in Helsinki.

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