Moscow Court Closes Politkovskaya Trial to Public

16:31, 20 November 2008
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Ms. Politkovskaya gained...

The convoluted trial of three men accused of involvement in the killing of the journalist Anna Politkovskaya took a new twist on Wednesday when a judge decided to bar the media from the proceedings, reversing a decision made two days earlier to open the courtroom to the public, according to New York Times.

The judge, Yevgeny Zubov, told the court that jury members had refused to participate in the trial if the media were allowed to attend, said Karinna Moskalenko, a lawyer for the Politkovskaya family. Mr. Zubov said on Monday that he would close the trial if jury members were pressured.

Ms. Moskalenko said the judge had not offered convincing evidence of the need to bar the public for the safety of the jury, adding that she was disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling.

“I could expect this if there were a threat to the jury,” she said.

Ms. Politkovskaya gained renown as a tenacious and independent journalist in Russia for her reporting of the war in Chechnya and strong criticism of the Kremlin. She was shot to death in the elevator of her apartment building in October 2006.

The killing provoked vocal condemnation from inside Russia and abroad, and many critics of the Kremlin have accused the government of complacency, if not actual involvement, in her death.

The gunman remains at large, but prosecutors have charged three men with helping to organize the killing. The trial is being held at a Moscow military court because one of the defendants is a former employee in the F.S.B., the government security apparatus that is the successor to the K.G.B.

For Ms. Politkovskaya’s family and colleagues, Wednesday’s decision is another in a string of questionable government moves that have marred the investigation and prevented officials from identifying the actual killer.

“This is a politically motivated decision by the government,” said Dmitry A. Muratov, the editor in chief of Novaya Gazeta, where Ms. Politkovskaya worked as an investigative reporter. “It is an attempt to cover up the facts in this case.”

In response to the decision, Mr. Muratov said Novaya Gazeta will publish complete transcripts of the trial gathered by Ms. Politkovskaya’s representatives in the courtroom.

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