Court overturns Politkovskaya verdict

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The Independent Online

Russia's Supreme Court has overturned the acquittal of three men charged with the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist whose reporting directly challenged the country's most powerful leaders.

A Moscow jury acquitted the defendants – two Chechen brothers and a former policeman – in February after a trial that Ms Politkovskaya's supporters said was undermined by prosecution errors. The acquittal was an embarrassment for the Russian government, which has appeared eager to fend off charges that journalists and Kremlin critics can be murdered with impunity. Lawyers for the prosecution appealed against the verdict, accusing the judge of making numerous procedural violations.

The Supreme Court agreed there had been a violation of procedural rules and ordered a new jury trial. Not guilty verdicts are often reversed by Russia's higher courts.

All three defendants were accused of playing minor roles in the shooting dead of Ms Politkovskaya in 2006. One of Ms Politkovskaya's editors at Novaya Gazeta newspaper said the main problem with the trial was that it was "just about these extras," referring to the three defendants.

"We're more interested in the mastermind and the killer," Sergei Sokolov, deputy editor, said on Ekho Moskvy radio. "It's completely obvious that today's ruling was based on a political decision, not a procedural one. For the authorities, the most important thing was just to make sure someone went to prison."