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Hearings continue in Markelov-Baburova murder trial

(GDF/IFEX) - The Moscow city court has continued hearings in the murder case of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.

The 15 March 2011 hearing opened with yet another attempt by lawyer Aleksandr Vassilyev, who is defending Nikita Tikhonov, the man accused of shooting and killing the two victims, to challenge Judge Aleksandr Zamashnyuk, saying he is biased "in favour of the prosecution". That plea, like the previous one made on 9 March, was turned down. The defence lawyers then lodged a complaint against Zamashnyuk with Moscow's Qualification College of Judges, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

As the court turned from procedural matters to considering the case in essence, Prosecutor Boris Laktionov read out the protocols of visual studies of the recordings made on the day of the killing by security cameras in Prechistenka Street. The recordings featured a woman in dark clothes who "paced the sidewalk for some time", covering her face and watching the events taking place on the other side of the street, and then started to walk briskly toward the Kropotkinskaya metro station. Several freeze-frame shots were shown to the jurors.

Earlier, an eyewitness gave a similar description of a girl he had seen near the scene of the crime. He later identified her on a photo as Yevgenia Khasis, who is accused of complicity in the murder.

Prosecutor Laktionov also presented ballistic evidence stating that the bullets used in the killing had been shot from "one and the same 7.65 mm pistol - a Browning, Mauser or Walther". The prosecutor deduced it was the Browning (made in 1910) which had been found during a search of Tikhonov's home. The defendant did not deny he had such a pistol, which he said "a friend brought asking me to fix it".

Answering questions from the judge and jurors, Tikhonov showed knowledge of black-market prices for firearms and said, "It would take me a few minutes to fix a Browning because I read specialty literature on the subject." He declined to name his clients, saying, "Maybe you'll get a chance to interrogate my clients someday - but I won't be the one to tell you their names," Gazeta.ru reported. As regards the short-barrel Kalashnikov found in his knapsack at the time of his detention, Tikhonov said he was "about to try the submachine-gun somewhere in a forest."

During the following hearing on 17 March, the prosecutor read out the protocol of seizure of the guns and other illegal items found in Tikhonov's apartment, and showed the main material evidence - the 7.65 mm Browning used to shoot and kill Markelov and Baburova. The prosecutor also presented other guns confiscated from Tikhonov, together with cartridges, an ignition cap and a silencer. He said the accused had also kept literature on firearms at home, including a manual on how to fire submachine gun rounds from a moving car.

As GDF has reported previously, the Federal Security Service (FSB) officers who detained Tikhonov later said in court that they had been told another crime was being planned. Their testimony, as well as the search of Tikhonov's apartment, led the investigators to conclude that, after the double killing in Prechistenka, Tikhonov had been preparing to commit another murder. But Judge Zamashnyuk warned that the presentation of any information unrelated to the case under consideration was prohibited.

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