Politkovskaya Trial Opens Behind Closed Doors

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The Anna Politkovskaya murder trial opened today and it’s already being marred by secrecy, conspiracy theories, and suspicion.  Despite efforts by Politkovskaya’s newspaper, Novaya gazeta, the trial of Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov will not be open to the public.  The trial will be a military one because, officials say, the case involved many classified documents, particularly documents referring to Pavel Ryagunov, a former FSB officer tied to the murder.

A closed trial is not the only thing that has raised eyebrows.  Yesterday, Karinna Moskalenko, the lawyer for Politkovskaya’s family, suddenly fell ill before leaving for Moscow to attend the trial.  She’s suggesting that someone tried to poison her with mercury pellets found in her car. “People do not put mercury in your car to improve your health,” Moskalenko told Ekho Moskvy. “I am very concerned because there were children in that car.” She also added that she believes that the attempt was more of a warning.  “I think it may have been a demonstration because there was lots of it. How could you not notice it?”  As for who might have done this, she has no clue.  Was this a murder attempt, a warning, or just paranoia?  Results from toxicology tests are still pending.

The trial’s opening comes on the heels of the second anniversary of Politkovskaya’s murder.  There were several commemorations around the world marking it.   In Helsinki, Amnesty International activists  with 350 others held a small ceremony outside the Russian embassy.  In France, a series of actions to remember Politkovskaya will take place over a two week period.  In Moscow, a few hundred people came out in the pouring rain.  OMON officers were there for security and didn’t interfere with the gathering. A number of memories and thoughts about Politkovskaya can be read on Global Voices.

As for the big question of where is Rustam Makhmudov, the alleged trigger man, and who is the person or persons who ordered the hit, here is what Petros Garibyan said in a recent interview with Novaya gazeta:

Q: As for the supposed killer Rustam Makhmudov. His photo it is possible to see on the Interpol’s site. Does it mean he is hiding in abroad?

A: I can’t say for sure whether he is hiding in abroad or on the Russian territory. Even if I knew that, I wouldn’t say, as this is the secret of investigation. Wherever he was, he is looked for everywhere. He has been put on the federal and international wanted file on two criminal counts. There a sanction for his arrest wherever he were found.

Q: And what about organizer or organizers? Have you managed to narrow the circle of those suspected?

A: Well, we have suppositions about possible involvements, which is not bad in such a hard case. I cannot narrow this circle and so I check everyone. And the circle itself is not so big to be narrowed – that’s about 2-4 people. Now we are working exactly about the supposed organizers. Everyone must be checked and proved guilty or not guilty, and only then they must go to court and get sentenced.

So the trial made be starting behind closed doors, but the search continues and will so for some time.