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Mastermind behind murder of human rights lawyer, journalist, sentenced to life in prison

A demonstrator holds a portrait of slain reporter Anastasiya Baburova during a memorial rally in Moscow, 19 January 2011
A demonstrator holds a portrait of slain reporter Anastasiya Baburova during a memorial rally in Moscow, 19 January 2011

AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 24 July 2015.

The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the sentencing to life in prison today of a Russian nationalist leader in connection with the 2009 fatal attack on human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, in which Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasiya Baburova was also killed. The Moscow City Court ruled that Ilya Goryachev, a leader of the extremist Battle Organization of Russian Nationalists, was the mastermind behind the murder, according to news reports. The verdict was issued on July 15 while the court announced the sentence today.

"We are relieved that justice has been served in the 2009 double murder of Anastasiya Baburova and Stanislav Markelov," CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. "The conviction and sentencing of the mastermind in this case is an important step in the fight against impunity in the many contract-style killings of journalists in Russia. Investigating officials must persevere until all those responsible for journalist murders are behind bars."

In January 2009, an assailant shot Markelov in the back of the head after the lawyer left a news conference in Moscow, news reports said. Baburova, who was with Markelov at the time, tried to stop the gunman, who shot her in the head as well, the reports said. Two other nationalists were sentenced in 2011 in connection with the murders, according to news reports. Russia is ranked 10th on CPJ's Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are slain and their killers go free.

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