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Europe

Russian Court Rules Public Allowed at Politkovskaya Trial

A Russian military court will allow public and media access to the trial of three men charged over the murder investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, it ruled in a crucial first hearing.

A man holds a photo of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya during an unauthorized rally

Politkovskaya is remembered as a sharp and courageous critic of the Kremlin

Family members and supporters of the slain Kremlin critic had called for a public trial, though many observers had thought the case would be held behind closed doors.

"We will demand that the trial be open," Politkovskaya's son Ilya Politkovsky told the news agency AFP. "My mother was a journalist and I think it's impossible to have… a closed trial."

One of the four defendants in the case, Pavel Ryaguzov, is a Federal Security Service agent, meaning special attention will likely go towards keeping the minutia of the case out of public reach.

Ryaguzov is suspected of having provided Politkovskaya's home address to her killers and is charged with abuse of office. Three others, including a former police investigator, are also being tried for the killing.

Politkovskaya, who was 48 at the time of her death, was shot in the stairwell outside her Moscow apartment in October 2006 in what most believe was a contract killing. She was a prominent investigative journalist in Russia's tightly controlled media landscape.

Her stories for bi-weekly publication Novaya Gazeta focused mainly on human rights abuses committed by Russian troops and pro-Moscow militias in conflict-torn Chechnya.

Case politicized

Anna Politkovskaya

Politkovskaya fiercely opposed the conflict in Chechnya

The case has received significant attention in the international media, but many fear stoppers have been placed on the investigation's progress.

"Based on experience, we know that this type of case is never resolved in our country," said Boris Tymoshenko of the Glasnost Defense Foundation. But it's still positive that at least a part of the case has gone to court this time."

He said there was "an absence of political will" for cases of this nature.

Igor Yakovenko, who represents the Russian journalists' association, said the Russian government has not been pushing for answers to Politkovskaya's murder.

"Politkovskaya's colleagues are content with the work of investigators looking into the murder. But the officials have encountered problems and the investigation has been politicized," he told Deutsche Welle.

Unknown killer

Ilya, son of slain investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya

Ilya, Politkovskaya's son, has called for a public trial

Two years after her murder, both Politkovskaya's killer and the individual who are thought to have ordered it are still at large.

It is believed a man named Rustam Makhmudov was contracted to kill the journalist and has since fled Russia. The person who ordered the killing has never been identified.

"I don't have any hope that the name of the person who ordered the killing will be revealed ... the people who will be tried don't have direct contact with him, it's a criminal group that did this for the money," Politkovsky said.

Two of the defendants, Chechen brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov -- brothers to Rustam Makhmudov -- are accused of having followed Politkovskaya in her last weeks.

The fourth defendant, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, is a former police investigator from the Moscow police's organized crime unit.

Russia is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work in, with 49 killed since 1992.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the federation third deadliest for journalists after Iraq and Algeria.

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