- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 8, 2009

MOSCOW | A Moscow court rejected a plea by the family of slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya for a new investigation into her death, leading critics again to accuse authorities of not being interested in hunting the perpetrators.

Three men are being retried for purportedly playing minor roles in Mrs. Politkovskaya’s 2006 slaying, after the Supreme Court overturned their acquittal in June.

Mrs. Politkovskaya’s family had hoped the retrial, which started Wednesday, would spur a new inquiry to discover the masterminds of the killing. Prosecutors had backed the family’s request for a new investigation.

But Friday’s ruling dashed those hopes, and underpinned suspicion of official obstruction in the high-profile case.

Mrs. Politkovskaya’s daughter, Vera, said Friday’s decision lessened the family’s faith in the fairness of the proceedings.

“We are absolutely shocked by today’s news and are disappointed because we thought we had a chance to attain justice,” she said. “If we could, we really would like to not participate in this circus any longer.”

She said family members and attorneys would continue attending the retrial, but planned to pursue the case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

A Moscow jury in February acquitted the three defendants - two Chechen brothers and a former policeman - of complicity after a trial that Mrs. Politkovskaya’s supporters said was undermined by shoddy detective work and the absence of the triggerman and masterminds.

Brothers Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov were accused of being a driver and lookout, respectively, and former police investigator Sergei Khadzhikurbanov purportedly supplied the murder weapon. A third Makhmudov brother, Rustam, is accused of pulling the trigger and is thought to be hiding abroad under an alias.

“The point of the appeal was very simple,” said Karinna Moskalenko, one of the family’s attorneys. “The crime is not solved and the case is not investigated. All we’re saying is the way the case was submitted to the courts a year ago did not answer a single important question … Who ordered the crime or who committed it? And if there is evidence, it must be brought to the court.”

In her articles and books, Mrs. Politkovskaya harshly criticized both the Kremlin and the Kremlin-backed government of Russia’s Chechnya region, the scene of two brutal separatist wars since the early 1990s.

The retrial opened amid allegations by Mrs. Politkovskaya’s lawyers that the jury is biased and perhaps handpicked by the court.

Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based advocacy group that monitors violence against journalists, criticized Friday’s court ruling.

“Impunity now reigns supreme in Russia,” the group said.

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