Politician 'ordered killing'

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A defence lawyer for one of three men charged with killing the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya said yesterday that their indictment indicates that a politician in Russia ordered her murder.

Murad Musayev said the indictment does not name a specific figure, but points to a domestic political mastermind. "From the indictment, we read that... this is a political figure inside the Russian Federation and that he ordered this crime to punish Anna Politkovskaya for critical reports," Mr Musayev told reporters at the courthouse. His statement contradicts suggestions from authorities that the killing was the work of a Kremlin foe acting from abroad, and adds another layer of intrigue to an explosive case.

Meanwhile, prosecutors asked the judge yesterday to step aside, claiming that he was biased. Changing judges would further disrupt a trial that Politkovskaya's relatives say was marred from the start by the absence of the alleged killer, and the lack of a suspected mastermind.

Politkovskaya, a critic of the Kremlin whose reporting on human rights abuses in Chechnya embarrassed the government, was fatally shot at her Moscow apartment building in 2006.