Politkovskaya murder: Defendants to have jury trial

Rustam Makhmudov (C), Sergei Khadzhikurbanov (L) and Lom-Ali Gaitukayev in court in Moscow, 3 June
Image caption Lom-Ali Gaitukayev (R) is accused of organising the murder. He is seen here in court with Rustam Makhmudov (C) and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov
Rustam Makhmudov in court in Moscow, 3 June
Image caption Rustam Makhmudov is accused of shooting Politkovskaya
Two of the defendants, Dzhabrail (L) and Ibragim Makhmudov, in court in Moscow, 3 June
Image caption Dzhabrail (L) and Ibragim Makhmudov are accused of being accomplices
The children of Anna Politkovskaya, Vera (L) and Ilya, look on before the court hearing in Moscow, 3 June
Image caption Politkovskaya's children Vera (L) and Ilya were in court to see proceedings

Five men accused over the murder of prominent journalist and Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 have been granted the right to a jury trial.

The jurors will be selected on 20 June with the first public hearing due shortly afterwards.

Three of the accused were acquitted of the murder in 2009 but that verdict was overturned by Russia's supreme court.

All the defendants, who include four members of the same Chechen family, say they are innocent.

Politkovskaya was shot dead outside her home in Moscow, in a crime that shocked the world of journalism.

Preliminary hearings to decide procedural matters were held this week behind closed doors.

Lom-Ali Gaitukayev is accused of organising the assassination while one of his nephews, Rustam Makhmudov, is suspected of being the actual gunman.

Two other nephews, Ibragim and Dzhibrail Makhmudov, and a former policeman, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, are accused of being accomplices.

Last year a former police lieutenant-colonel, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov, was convicted of supplying the murder weapon, and was sentenced to eleven years in jail.

But investigators have yet to provide any details of who they believe ordered the killing, the BBC's Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow.

'Best option'

Anna Stavitskaya, a lawyer representing Politkovskaya's family, welcomed Tuesday's jury ruling by Judge Pavel Melekhin.

"From our point of view, a jury trial is the best option since it fully respects the adversarial principle between the sides," she said.

Anna Politkovskaya was one of Russia's most prominent investigative journalists, our correspondent reports.

As well as being a fierce critic of the Kremlin, she accused the Russian military and pro-Moscow Chechen authorities of human rights abuses.

She was shot dead in the lobby of the block of flats where she lived.

Ms Stavitskaya expressed doubt that the key issue of who ordered the murder would be resolved.

"The case will be solved in full when the person who ordered it is found, when his name is established, when he is charged and his guilt is established by court," she said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

"There is no chance the name... will be voiced in this trial."

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